The FTC has increasingly focused its attention on the online lead generation industry by bringing enforcement actions against payday loan lead generators (lead generators alleged to have engaged in advertising that lacked disclosures required by the Truth in Lending Act), mortgagelead generators (lead generators alleged to have deceptively advertised mortgage products by misrepresenting their terms and conditions), and even companies that use lead generators to subvert telemarketing laws (a home security company alleged to have bought phone numbers from lead generator companies that made illegal robocalls to homeowners in violation of telemarketing laws). Following this trend, the FTC recently announced its upcoming workshop,Follow the Lead: An FTC Workshop on Lead Generation. The workshop will be held on October 30, 2015, at the FTC’s D.C. Office, located at 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. 

Lead generation is the practice of identifying or cultivating consumer interest in a product or service and distributing this information to third parties. Leads can be created for purposes such as list building, e-newsletter list acquisition, or sales leads. Lead generators track consumers’ Internet inquiries regarding specific products or services, including mortgages, educational programs, or payday loans. Often consumers will include sensitive personal and/or financial information in these inquiries, which lead generators then distribute to third parties.

The workshop will focus on “the consumer protection issues raised by the practices of the lead generation industry, and what consumers and businesses should know and do to address them,” including the following topics:

  • How online lead generation works and its variations, depending on the industry.
  • What types of lead generation conduct may be unlawful under the FTC act’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices.
  • Best practices for entities that generate and sell consumer leads.
  • How consumers can avoid unlawful conduct in the online marketplace.

The FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists in advance of the workshop, which may be submitted to leadgen@ftc.gov by August 25, 2015. The deadline to submit public comments about the workshop is December 20, 2015. Comments can be submitted electronically.