For the second year, Epath Digital was proud to be a Silver Sponsor of the 2015 annual NRMLA Reverse Mortgage industry conference. San Francisco is always a great town for a conference as the food, sights, and night life make for a great destination. The well attended conference was held at the famous and historic Palace Hotel, whose stunning architecture complimented the event.
Displaying at Booth 13 next to Urban Financial, EPD had the opportunity to meet with and speak with the majority of our lender clients, as well as many new to the industry or our company. We learned a lot, shared a lot, but more importantly, had a great opportunity to spend some social time with many of our valued clients. Breakout sessions included information on HECM counseling, loss mitigation options, consumer protections, origination, SAFE Act and financial assessment, and more.
The “Gala” was put on by the industry’s larger lenders including Urban Financial, Liberty Home Mortgage, RMS, and AAG and was an amazing night of food, music, networking, and charity giving. EPD stepped up to the plate with total donations of more than $2,000 to support the Curry Senior Center, a non-profit organization serving homeless and low-income seniors in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. We were happy to support this worthwhile organization as it strives to improve the lives of local residents.
All in all it was a great event to attend for anyone serious about the Reverse Mortgage industry, and EPD was delighted to offer our continued support.
After frankly discussing some misleading quotes from Consumer Advocacy I wanted to close out my notes on the recent Washington, D.C. FTC workshop I attended by looking towards the future. This is something I’m extremely passionate about, and one of the reasons I am honored to be a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com), whose goals are creating new strategies for upholding ethical values and compliance.
At the conference, protecting the consumer Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and distribution of that data was the subtext behind all of the panel discussions. Further, providing transparency on how many times the data will be distributed to the consumer through disclosures is key.
Proposed ways to further protect the consumer:
- Require all providers to meet Initial standards to deliver interested consumers to the client
- Set up disclaimers and privacy policies for the consumer to read and understand.
- Verification pop-ups
- Set up filters to eliminate non-qualified consumer or redirect them if not.
- Set up opportunities to not collect non-qualified leads.
- Set up better lead qualifiers as well as confirmations on submittals
- Verify data through a data clearing house to make sure information is accurate
- Auditing call centers
- Data gathering technology to go and find violators to protect the consumer
My overall impression of what’s to come from the FTC is that if you are…
It’s good to be home from an important recent FTC workshop on online lead generation, which I attended with my Chief Compliance Officer and panelists Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree, two fellow board members of our exciting new LeadsCouncil – that you are invited to join. As a compliance-focused member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past two decades, I very much looked forward to this event. After first breaking down all of the lead generation players and detailing exactly what is important to whom, I turned my eye to some often-misleading quotes from the Consumer Advocacy side of things.
Who doesn’t find some frank feedback useful?
Some classic quotes (and my opinions on what they said) from the Consumer Advocates, many of whom paint the industry with the broad brush of misunderstanding or zealotry:
“If a prospective student submits a lead, they’ll get calls from 100s of schools”. – Not true…well most of the time.
David Halperin – Consumer Advocate Attorney
“In the for-profit school business, they use strippers as recruiters” & “If I were you, I would never enter my phone number anywhere on the Internet.” – I am sure a stripper got a job as an admission rep somewhere, but it is not the norm. Mr. Halperin appeared more interested in making a name for himself with his outrageous statements than finding workable solutions. (more…)
As both a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com) and a compliance-minded member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past 20 years, I flew to Washington D.C. this week with my Chief Compliance Officer to attend an FTC workshop on lead generation. We had received notice that the FTC was going to hold a panel discussion on lead generation in the lending and education verticals, and we wanted to attend. LeadsCouncil Board members Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree were both panelists at the event, and the council was also indirectly represented by VP & Head of Compliance, John Henson from Tree.
These types of panels and acceptance of written comment are usually a precursor to enhanced enforcement efforts or proposing additional regulation. Discussions around these events focused on tools and processes that consumers and businesses could use to determine where and how their information was being used as well as the current disclosures, and whether they are enough to protect the consumer. The following is a summary of the topics and issues discussed and topics to think about to improve your business practices:
What is important to the consumer?
- Receiving reliable, accurate information on the products and services they requested.
- Competitively-priced options to ensure consumers get the best price for the best service.
- Expectation that their data and information will be protected.
- To control the flow of communication during the decision-making process.
- Personalized search options to only receive options that meet their criteria.
Once upon a time, before the National Do-Not-Call regulations and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 USC 227 and 47 CFR 64.1200, business were free to “cold call” consumers to introduce them to new products and services. Those days are long past, and more importantly, cold calling landline or mobile numbers on even your old leads can create tremendous liability for you and your company. Despite these regulations, I still find myself frequently the recipient of such cold calls regarding a mortgage, and when queried, the callers often have never even heard of TCPA. It’s mind boggling! Understanding these regulations are critical for anyone in business given the rash of Federal Class action lawsuits against corporations from professional litigants looking to extort your company.
Background on the TCPA
The TCPA and its implementing rules impose limitations on calls placed to both residential and wireless telephone numbers. The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls made using an artificial or pre-recorded voice to residential phones, without prior express consent. The TCPA also prohibits making non-emergency calls using an automated telephone dialing system or artificial or pre-recorded voice to a wireless telephone number without prior express consent. If the call to the wireless number includes an advertisement or is considered telemarketing, the express consent must be in writing. Failure to comply with these rules results in automatic penalties ranging from $500 up to $1,500 per unsolicited call placed if you disregard TCPA compliance. Unlike DNC penalties, this is not a fine for the calls you made to the specific complainant, but rather EVERY call you made to anyone’s mobile number since TCPA was updated in Oct of 2013, if the Class is certified in litigation. Even if compliant, the costs of defense are enormous and litigants often file these as a way to extort $50,000 or more from companies, as judgments can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and take years in court. Calling under the pretext of a “survey” to generate a sales opportunity is also prohibited. TCPA includes uninvited text messages.
On July 17, 2015, the FCC issued new rules regarding TCPA in an attempt to clarify this area of law. While the new rule results in a number of changes to the TCPA, none is more significant than the broadening of the definition of an “automated telephone dialing system” (ATDS). In simplest terms, the FCC now defines an ATDS as any equipment that is actually or potentially able to dial random or sequential numbers – even if not actually used that way, and even if it must be altered in order to be capable of doing so. In essence, your iPhone can be considered an automated dialer in certain circumstances. Given the fact the US economy relies on consumer spending for 70% of total GDP, these laws are not only stifling our economy in my view, but placing undue burdens on legitimate businesses. Bottom feeding lawyers and professional litigants are clogging up the courts with these cases due to the extremely high value of potential judgments.
We’re headed down a brand-new path for our industry – and an especially exciting one. After nearly 20 years in online marketing without an industry advocacy and standards organization, I’m thrilled by the recent formation of the LeadsCouncil.
In effect, the LeadsCouncil symbol will be a seal of approval to help advertisers distinguish the industry leaders, from those other who are less concerned about upholding ethical values and compliance.
It’s a fascinating time to be involved in Digital Marketing.
I’m honored to have been asked to join as both a plank holder and participate on the Board of Directors to help create the policies and standards we hope to apply to all of the current and future members of LeadsCouncil. Our goal is to promote ethical policies and practices, protect consumer rights, advise and lobby the Federal regulatory agencies that police our industry, and develop a set of standards all LeadsCouncil members must adhere to for the benefit of our advertisers and our industry.
I liken it to the perception of the Better Business Bureau. It’s frankly nice to see our industry maturing!
I have always felt that it was important to be proactive in fighting for our rights. Sadly, so many in our industry would rather hide their head in the sand than participate in helping Federal Regulators form policy regarding marketing practices. As an industry, we must take steps to police the “bad actors” and protect the rights of consumers, or someone outside our industry will take steps to do it for us. (more…)