SunTrust Banks (STI) is refusing to participate in a self-regulatory organization's inquiry into its online advertising practices, prompting the group to refer the Atlanta bank to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Before its inquiry was stymied, the organization — which is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus — wanted to look into the use of data collected from visitors to SunTrust's website.

The self-regulatory group's monitors had observed "what appeared to be third parties known to be engaged in collecting consumers' web browsing activity in order to serve them interest-based ads," the group said in a news release. It questioned whether SunTrust was providing consumers real-time notification of the data collection, as well as an opt-out mechanism.

A SunTrust spokesman responded in an email: "Our website practices comply with all laws and regulations, and we find this organization's challenge to be unfounded."

The self-regulatory body is called the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program. The group, which gets policy guidance from the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, seeks to persuade companies to comply with a set of self-regulatory principles for online advertising.

The organization said in Thursday's news release that it has concluded 32 formal inquiries, and gotten 100% compliance with its recommendations, since it was launched in 2011. It said that SunTrust is the first company it has referred to regulators.

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