Compliance is a broad term that refers to a person or a business acting within specified rules or guidelines. Merriam-Webster defines compliance as “conformity in fulfilling official requirements.”
Compliance rules are generally designed to protect the public and they vary depending on a wide variety of factors. For example, drivers in California are only in compliance with state law if they have both a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance for their vehicle. State law in New Hampshire doesn’t require insurance, so drivers there are complying with the law if they have a driver’s license but don’t have insurance. To be “in compliance,” you need to have a thorough understanding of what rules apply to you, your company, and your specific situation.
Governments (local, state, national, and international) and industry groups set guidelines and formal rules of compliance for different types and sizes of businesses. Individual companies can also establish specific compliance rules for their partners that want to do business with them. For example, the credit card networks work together to establish the rules for proper handling of all credit card information, while the credit reporting company Experian sets its own guidelines for companies wishing to partner with it. The U.S. government introduced compliance standards for the sharing of health data through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Business compliance standards often evolve, so companies following them must monitor the specifics carefully and regularly. Many compliance guidelines require annual audits to confirm adherence to the latest standards.
The most common types of business compliance govern the following: