Since it’s onset in 1995, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) several times in order to respond to developments in telemarketing schemes. The amendments allow for liability for third parties. For example, education lead generators that have provided “substantial assistance or support” to any seller while knowing, or consciously avoiding knowing, that the seller or telemarketer is engaged in activity in violation of the TSR.
What do these amendments mean for lead educators and for-profit schools?
- The TSR covers calls made with multiple purposes, if one of the purposes is the sale of goods or services. So, companies who use robocalls to sell goods or services risk violating the TSR.
- Liability is broad under the TSR. Liability is not limited to the company that made the calls. It’s also illegal to “provide substantial assistance or support” to a seller or telemarketer when you know or consciously avoid knowing they’re violating the Rule. The TSR makes it clear that “but I wasn’t the one doing the dialing” isn’t a defense.
- The states and feds are united in the fight against illegal telemarketing. The FTC, Department of Justice, and State Attorney Generals remain committed to working together to protect consumers from illegal telemarketing.
How can you avoid a violation?
- Make sure the prospective inquiry gives the educational lead generator company express written permission to call, even if their telephone number is on the national Do Not Call Registry.
- The educational lead generator or school will not require any purchase of goods or services in order to obtain student consent.
- Written consent must include the student’s telephone number and signature.
- The student will receive phone calls as a result of submitting the Request for Information (RFI) form on the educational lead generator’s website (or other collateral) and checking the box that gives express permission.
One of the prominent marketing uses in the education industry today is the use of testimonials to endorse a school. The power of a testimonial shows that success at a particular school not only can happen, but that it has happened. Using case studies to show the effectiveness of an institution’s training program certainly speaks volumes to individuals considering the lengthy commitment of returning to school.
Testimonials can go so far as to endorse a school that they can easily be used to mislead and entice individuals with exaggerated or false claims. Due to excessive use of testimonials the FTC has written guidelines on the dos and don’ts to shape education marketing compliance. Here is a list of guidelines to comply with when using testimonials in marketing materials:
- If a testimonial endorses a service and the result for that endorser was not a typical result, the advertiser must disclose the expected results of that service
- Any transaction that is made between an advertiser and the endorser must be disclosed in the advertisement
- Endorsers not representing “actual customers” must be adjoined with a disclaimer stating the testimonial is not from an actual customer
- Testimonials have timetables. If an endorser provided a testimonial at a time when they were an actual user, the testimonial must still reflect a “current” opinion of that endorser
- Wording cannot be distorted to endorse an advertiser
Testimonials are important as they serve as a connecting point between a successful user and a potential user. Staying in compliance for use of testimonials is just as important and can be followed given thoughtful consideration.