For Immediate Release
Washington, DC – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) today expressed its strong support for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed regulation that would allow for the electronic delivery of benefit plan documents and urges swift finalization of the proposal.
ERIC applauds the DOL for developing a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal for expanding the accessibility of electronic disclosures, while ensuring that those individuals who prefer to receive paper disclosures can continue to do so. The proposal expands accessibility by creating a safe harbor for providing electronic disclosure as a default; expanding the definition of electronic communications to include not only e-mail addresses, but also phone numbers connected to smart phones and other mobile-computing devices; and including persons who provide a personal e-mail address or smart phone number, as well as those given an email address by their employer.
“ERIC member companies – large employer plan sponsors that lead every sector of the economy – have found that electronic communications offer significant advantages for participants, as well as for plan sponsors and administrators,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, President and CEO, ERIC. “In today’s connected, on-demand world the government must update how employees and retirees can access information about their benefits. Appropriate use of electronic delivery, as provided for in the proposed regulations, protects and benefits plan participants and plan sponsors, in addition to the environment.”
Benefits for both plan sponsors and participants, include:
- Participant Access – Electronic delivery allows participants to be more engaged in managing and maximizing their benefits by giving real-time information at the participant’s convenience. It also serves as a single repository for current plan information and disclosures.
- Time Efficiency – Electronic communications get to recipients faster than paper communications by up to more than two weeks.
- Privacy – Secure electronic communication offers more privacy protection than paper communications by requiring usernames and passwords to access protected, private information. It would also cut down on benefits-related identity theft and scams.
- Interactive Capability – Interactive features make many electronic communications more user-friendly by allowing for the inclusion of search features and hyperlinks to relevant information.
- Administration and Cost-Efficiency – Providing communications electronically makes plan administration easier, freeing the plan administrator for other tasks that can benefit participants and reducing the cost of plan administration allowing those cost-savings to be passed on to plan participants.
- Tracking Abilities – Electronic communication helps address the “missing” participant problem, giving the plan an additional means, besides a physical address, for keeping track of a plan participant and linking them with their retirement benefits.
- Environmental – Electronic media reduces the use of paper and cuts down on pollution from postal delivery, both supporting the environment.
While ERIC’s comments were overall very supportive, ERIC did ask for the final rules to be expanded to:
- Include health and other welfare plans
- Allow electronic delivery to be the default method of communication, unless a participant opts into receiving paper copies
- Not disrupt a plan sponsor’s existing disclosure practices
- Allow for the evolution of technology
- Clarify the implementation date of the final rule
- Modify specific aspects of the proposed rule, including the Notice of Internet Availability, the standards for internet website, and the standards for monitoring of invalid electronic addresses
“ERIC has been vocal for several years, urging the DOL to modernize plan administration to allow for electronic delivery. This change is long overdue, and we are pleased to see it finally moving forward,” said Guarisco Fildes.
Click here to read ERIC’s comments.