Chicago Automobile Trade Association

FTC staff issues do-not-call guidance on consumer inquiries to lead generators

November 18, 2010

Staff of the Federal Trade Commission have issued guidance on whether, for purposes of the National Do-Not-Call (DNC) rules, a consumer inquiry to an Internet lead generator forms an established business relationship (EBR) between the consumer and lenders who receive the lead. 


The FTC staff (a) believes such inquiries generally do not form an EBR between the consumer and such lenders, but (b) likely would not recommend an enforcement action against lenders who make such calls provided the lead generator makes certain disclosures before the consumer divulges his or her phone number. 


The following summarizes key points in the FTC staff advisory opinion. The entire four-page staff opinion is should review the entire opinion to understand the context in which the following points are made. 

  • The opinion assumes that a consumer visits a Web site which offers to arrange for several lenders to compete for the consumer’s business. The consumer provides the lead generator with his or her contact information, including the consumer’s telephone number; 
  • In this scenario, the lead generator has an inquiry-based EBR with the consumer, which permits the lead generator to initiate a telemarketing call to the consumer within 90 days of the consumer’s inquiry;  
  • Lenders that receive a consumer’s contact information from a lead generation mechanism generally do not have an EBR with the consumer;
  • However, FTC staff likely would not recommend filing a DNC enforcement action against a lender that calls the consumer, provided the lead generator "clearly and conspicuous discloses to the consumer, before the consumer divulges her telephone number, both that the consumer may receive telemarketing calls as a consequence of submitting her telephone number, and the maximum number of entities from which the consumer may receive these calls." If possible, the consumer also should be informed of the identities of the lenders who may call the consumer before the consumer receives any such calls.  

Although FTC staff rendered the opinion in the context of the lending industry, it serves as useful guidance to dealers who call consumers from whom they have received contact information via an Internet lead generator. 


However, keep in mind that FTC staff guidance does not bind the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (which also enforces the National DNC rules) or courts that adjudicate private rights of action for alleged violations of the National DNC rules.



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