As leads become more expensive and our industry deals with increasingly restrictive telemarketing processes, more and more contractors have been turning to Internet-based lead generation.
The typical structure is one in which a contractor pays a fee to join an Internet group or Web site. The site usually gathers leads coming in from consumers interested in some type of home improvement or remodeling work. Sometimes this is accomplished because the site gets a hit when a consumer searches under certain generic buzzwords; sometimes it is because the site has micro-links to other Web sites, such as a real estate broker's Web page. The consumer enters basic information into the site, and the lead is then passed along to one or more subscribing contractors who then call the consumer to solicit business.
But what if the consumer is listed on the federal Do Not Call registry? Is the contractor legally allowed to make that call? Based on an informal advisory opinion issued by the Federal Trade Commission on July 19, 2006, the answer is a definitive “maybe.” So contractors must be careful about signing up with this type of Internet-based service. Otherwise, if you call someone listed on the DNC, you could be fined between $500 and $1,500 per call, plus the consumer's court costs and legal fees.
Here's what to look for before signing up with an Internet lead-generation service:
These disclosures must be made clearly and conspicuously. This information should be set apart from the rest of the Web site text and should be readily apparent, not buried in the fine print. To play it safe, this information should be in a bold font and disclosed to the consumer before he or she fills in contact information. —D.S. Berenson is the Washington, D.C., managing partner of Johanson Berenson LLP (www.homeimprovementlaw.com), a national law firm specializing in the representation of contractors and the home improvement industry; email@example.com.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.