Being in a fast-paced industry means that we are always on the look out for the most up-to-date discussions especially when it concerns consumer privacy and protection. On October 30, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop in Washington D.C. that brought together many industry experts along with consumer advocates and government regulators to have an open discussion on the latest issues and concerns.
The workshop consisted of five panels where current lead generation practices were described and concerns from advocates were addressed regarding the collecting and distributing of personal identifiable information (PII). The main topics of discussion — are lead generators handling sensitive consumer information responsibly and putting the interests on the customers first? And if not, how is the industry working towards making a unified effort to regulate this.
Lead generation has been a means to provide goods and services to consumers for a long time but average consumers are often not aware of what actually happens once they submit their information. Sometimes what may have seemed like a straight forward quote request for auto insurance could turn into a bombardment of calls from companies a consumer has never heard of. And when a complaint occurs, the situation quickly becomes a “follow-the-chain” game of trying to find how and where the transfer of this personal information went wrong. Advocates and regulators have a right to be concerned on behalf on the consumers, getting 10 calls a day from telemarketers may be an annoyance but what happens when someone’s identity gets stolen as a result of unethical practices?
Combating Fraud and Unethical Practices
Lead generators have been taking big steps with the help of the government to address consumer concerns and have responded in a big way in just the last 2 years. The updates to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 2013 led to big changes, particularly resulting in large penalties to some major companies. Self-regulation has also been a large point of focus. Companies today have even taken steps beyond government regulations to make sure consumer privacy and protection is their first priority. ReviMedia currently implements a wide variety of tools to combat fraud and practices strict guidelines when it comes to compliancy.
What’s Best for the Consumer?
It is imperative that the industry starts being more pro-active as opposed to taking the reactive approach when it comes to serving the consumer’s best interests. One panelist mentioned seeding leads to make sure lead buyers who reject a lead in a ping tree don’t try to contract the lead afterward. It is a good practice to help fight fraud and prevent unsolicited contact with consumers. Another concern brought up by advocates was the nature in which a lead is sold. In models like the ping tree, the “best” providers are not contacting consumers; rather it’s the highest bidder that wins the lead. As a company, ReviMedia believes in letting the consumers take the driver’s seat. Our answer to this is moving toward content rich sites with comparison models that help consumers make informed decisions and facilitate transparency of the end product or service.
Ultimately, industry experts and the government will need to continue working together to make strides in protecting the consumer as it has done in the past.