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SMALL BUSINESSES ANSWERED: FCC’s One to One Consent Will Not Only Harm Small Businesses But Consumers Too.
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Not long ago, we shared some insight on how to save your small business as a result of the FCC’s 1 to 1 consent Order which COMPLETELY changed lead generation as we know it and effective January 27, 2025 requires express consent to be made directly between the consumer and the seller.

Hope was not lost though because the FCC sought additional comment to conduct further economic analysis on the impact of this proposal on small businesses. According to the FCC, the record was missing specific evidence that demonstrates that such a rule, 1 to 1 consent, would harm businesses in a way that would outweigh the need to protect consumers, including small businesses, from the nuisance and invasion of privacy resulting from unwanted automated and prerecorded calls.

Small businesses heeded the call and the comments poured in responding to the FCC’s call. As our Duchess pointed out in her blog:

WILL IT BE ENOUGH TO SAVE SMALL BUSINESSES?

This is a long blog with a summary of the comments but it’s definitely worth the read. I am biased, obviously. 🤭

So overall, did the small businesses provide specific evidence of how the 1 to 1 consent would affect their small businesses? … Sort of.

The overall consensus is that the 1 to 1 will:

  • Increase operating expenses
  • Benefit large telemarketing firms and large brands/businesses
  • Unfairly punish small businesses, cause massive layoffs and even shut down businesses
  • Consumers will lose options
  • Consumers will lose the expertise of skilled agents in specific verticals
  • Consumers will pay the higher price

Let’s dive into some specific comments, which are linked below:

According to 360Connect, the rule would increase marketing and compliance costs and, ultimately, necessitate a permanent 50% reduction in employee headcount. Additionally, “One-to-One” Consent would have adverse second-order effects on our small business lead buyers resulting in a revenue loss of $50,000,000 per year and a permanent reduction of over 2,100 employees.

The Astoria Company, a REACH Member, also shared that many small businesses like Astoria do not have the marketing budget to cover the significant expenses of implementation. The one-to-one consent will harm our business by making it nearly impossible for the small, independent insurance agent, mortgage agent, home improvement contractor, solar installer, etc, to take on technical aspects of implementing all the requirements plus assuming all the liability for buying new customer leads. In an attempt to educate the FCC, Astoria provided examples of how technically challenging it is to require every business category to list the name of the buyer on the form.

Burst Marketing, LLC stated that requiring one-to-one consent would mean contacts would have to actively opt-in for each vendor and this means fewer leads, significant revenue loss and significantly increase my operating expenses. “As a small business, this loss could force me to close my doors.” One-to-one consent may make sense for large telemarketing firms, but would unfairly punish small lead generators like myself who help connect both B2B and B2C clients to relevant providers.

Another small business Irelocation Network Inc was created in response to consumer demand for a network of small businesses specializing in relocation. This Order will require them to spend thousands of dollars on developing websites and increasing the price of a lead to our customers to offset the increases in advertising costs. Without leads, these companies may cease to exist.

Rex Direct, a women-owned business, has already experienced substantial losses in potential revenue since the announcement of the new regulations. In addition to lost revenue, Rex Direct anticipates increased expenses to bring developers in-house to meet the evolving technological standards and client needs. The proposed model is expected to decrease lead supply, and increase lead cost, disproportionately affecting smaller businesses with limited regional coverage and budgets. This shift may make it affordable only for larger brands to market this way, leaving smaller businesses at a disadvantage.

Lastly, Rocky Iorio believes the 1 to 1 consent will cause severe damage and skyrocket lead costs for companies that are small and large. The layoffs will stretch across the entire planet as many companies utilize overseas workers.

Small Businesses also told the FCC how the 1 to 1 will affect Consumers too!

Basically, consumers will LOSE options and end up paying MORE for the same service!

The ruling wipes out the smaller players across all industries that rely on the internet for new customer leads, creating less diversity and fewer choices for consumers. Unfortunately, these costs will ultimately be borne by the consumers due to the extinction of small businesses from competing in the digital marketplace. – Astoria

The newly proposed one-to-one model will not be feasible and will drive costs up. Leads will cost more to generate, and less revenue will be made. The outcome will have an adverse impact on the consumer as this essentially drives the direct cost to the consumer up. Ultimately, the impact will impact many small businesses by job loss and closure of small businesses. According to recent statistics, small businesses currently make up 50 percent of U.S. employees. – Irelocation Network

As “One-to-One” Consent will economically harm smaller businesses, it forces them to either shrink the size of their businesses or close altogether. This will result in market consolidation among larger brands, less consumer choice, and higher prices. – 360 Connect

Closing the “lead generator” loophole and asking consumers for one-on-one consent will greatly affect the online user journey and user experience of legitimate comparison websites. In addition, it will adversely affect the performance metrics of these user journeys which will likely wipe out several small and mid-tier businesses. – Lendgo

I believe this will lead to at least a 25% reduction in consumer journey completions. This will likely result in cost increases of more than 25% for the businesses that rely on comparison sites for business. The consumer ultimately pays the price in higher costs that must be passed on by the businesses that service them and fewer options available due to companies going out of business. – Lendgo

This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on small businesses, as they will be able to afford fewer leads, generating less revenue. Additionally, consumers may have to pay more for the same service. – Rex Direct

Small Businesses offered alternatives and potential solutions to the FCC.

Amazing! – the actual industry participants provided suggestions to the FCC to assist in making the best decision for consumers and small businesses. Some ideas included:

  • Adopting REACH Standards!
  • Limiting the number of service providers
  • Automated opt-outs
  • Call Centers included in one-to-one consent
  • Allow Hyperlinks but limit the sale of a lead
  • Delay the “One-to-One” Consent rule and see if “Topical and Relevant” solves the problem of unwanted calls and texts.
  • A comprehensive analysis that considers the distinct impact of scams versus small businesses, as well as an evaluation of how proposed rules might affect consumers in terms of information access, costs, and market dynamics
  • Establish a standardized model for validating small businesses engaging in outbound dialing and texting

“We believe the Commission can assist small businesses in complying with the one-to-one consent rule by formally adopting REACH’s standards as a safe harbor, thereby protecting consumers and allowing small businesses to compete in today’s digital marketplace.” – Astoria

When a user makes a request through a comparison site, the only parties that should be allowed to call/text the user are the comparison site company, the service provider companies, and third-party companies that facilitate the calling and contacting of the user (i.e., call centers, SMS service providers, etc.). If the comparison site or service provider are making outbound calls to the consumer through a call center they own or a third-party call center, the call center must be located in the United States. FCC should enact strict laws governing the safe handling of call data that call centers are entrusted with to ensure data is not called for any other purpose or sold to third parties. – Lendgo

For each request a user makes on a comparison site, the maximum number of service providers that can be matched to call a consumer should be no more than 6 service providers. – Lendgo

Service providers and comparison sites that are calling users must give users and comparison sites an automated way to opt-out of further calls. Moreover, if a consumer gets a call from a service provider or comparison site, they should be able to instantly opt-out of further calls by simply asking the person calling them to opt the user out of further calls. – Lendgo

We propose the establishment of a call center for one-to-one consent, where consumers are contacted once, qualified, and connected with an ideal provider. This approach seems less intrusive than having multiple end buyers contact the consumer individually. We are concerned that the overall impact of these changes may lead to significant job losses and potentially force the closure of Rex Direct. However, with clarification on these issues, we believe a fair and reasonable solution can be achieved, allowing businesses to succeed while aligning with the FCC’s goal of reducing intrusive calls to consumers. – Rex Direct

Allow multiple END sellers/servicers that are actually selling the product, but limit dialing/initial consent to the call center/lead “buyer”, a sort of hybrid module of 1:1 that will not result in job losses. However, there is the issue of call center buyers “transferring” consent. But regardless, centers are not going to keep dialing that person for the same product, so it should be transferable once the true “buyer” has received the transfer or lead. – Rex Direct

Allowing hyperlinks but limiting the sale of a lead to no more than three different companies listed on that hyperlink can prevent overworking leads and maintain their quality. Moreover, mandating that the companies on the hyperlink cannot resell the consumer’s information to another set of three entities is crucial. This ensures that consumers benefit from healthy competition among a limited number of companies without being inundated with unwanted solicitations. Defining harassment in the context of lead generation and specifying the maximum number of times a lead can be sold from a single opt-in would effectively address the lead generation loophole. Balancing consumer protection with the need for legitimate businesses to operate is key to achieving a fair and effective regulatory framework. – Jesse Sherrod (Tripp)

To address the issue of overseas scammers without adversely affecting small businesses, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines on lead frequency, define harassment, and implement measures to prevent scammers from accessing communication networks. Striking a balance is essential to avoid hindering legitimate businesses that provide valuable services to consumers. Additionally, addressing the legal challenges faced by small businesses, such as limiting attorney fees, can contribute to a more balanced and fair regulatory environment. Real data from both perspectives should be considered before implementing changes to avoid unintended consequences and maintain the benefits that small businesses bring to consumers. – Tripp

The call is for a regulatory framework that distinguishes between legitimate business outreach and fraudulent activities, allowing small businesses to continue their efforts to connect, collaborate, and bring value to one another. – Tripp

The worry is that stringent regulations might impede legitimate business activities, making it harder for consumers to make informed and cost-effective purchasing decisions. There is a concern that overly restrictive measures could lead to market domination by entities with deep pockets, potentially stifling competition and creating monopolies. In summary, the request is for a comprehensive analysis that considers the distinct impact of scams versus small businesses, as well as an evaluation of how proposed rules might affect consumers in terms of information access, costs, and market dynamics. This would help ensure that regulations strike an appropriate balance between consumer protection and supporting the vitality of small businesses. – Tripp

Establish a standardized model for validating small businesses engaging in outbound dialing and texting. Implement a requirement for businesses to verify both their IP addresses and phone numbers, ensuring that every call and text can be accurately traced back to a registered business. Develop a new network-wide standard that guarantees the identity of the calling or texting business, effectively shutting down access to unverified entities. By enforcing this stringent validation process, businesses that adhere to the rules will be readily identified, promoting compliance. The goal is to create a barrier against rule-breaking entities, as businesses are generally inclined to follow regulations, while scammers seek to exploit vulnerabilities. The emphasis is on halting spoofing practices to effectively deter scammers. – Tripp

We urge the FCC to delay the “One-to-One” Consent rule and see if “Topical and Relevant” solves the problem of unwanted calls and texts. Our customers who fill out our lead forms use us because we remove friction from the buying process. We help introduce them to brands they might not be familiar with, allowing them to save time and money and find the best fit for what they are seeking. -360 Connect

The government needs to zero-in its focus on the Telecom VOIP providers. If you do, you will substantially shut down the criminals who are making billions of robocalls and text messages a day with the intent to steal from Americans. -Astoria

Small Businesses also shared that their expertise actually helps the consumer make the best choice.

This 1 to 1 is Pandora’s box as it relates to independent agents. For example, an independent real estate agent contacting a lead from an online form. How can the agent’s name appear on the online disclosure when the agent hasn’t been assigned? How can the consumer benefit from the agent’s experience in the real estate process if the consumer must select the agent before speaking to the agent…

Similarly, how can consumers receive the benefit of the agent’s expertise in specific verticals that are multi-layered. Supplier Network commented and shared that “we operate websites that connect people with the best providers for their needs. Much of the work we do is in industries that are highly fragmented and do not have adequate representation online for consumers to find them. Given the number of providers we work with (because of the benefit that brings to consumers), it’s not feasible to list and receive consent from the user for every company that might contact them because they can’t be matched until inventories at local yards can be checked. In each of these instances, the same situations would apply and both American consumers and businesses would be negatively impacted in our opinion.”

Another comment from Burst Marketing LLC shared similar concerns: My website allows both homeowners and business owners to fill out one form expressing interest in services or products. I then provide their contact information to relevant vendors and service companies who can reach out directly to offer estimates, demos, or other information. This benefits both homeowners and businesses by allowing competitive bids and information from multiple vendors, while also helping companies generate qualified leads.

Makes you wonder, will this 1 to 1 actually meet its objective and stop calls?

Or is this just more red tape for the good actors like small businesses to navigate while trying to fulfill their American Dream?

One commenter really drives this point. He calls himself an expert in the comparison-shopping industry and believes that closing the lead generator loophole will not stop unwanted calls/texts, spam, malware, or scams. The bad actors that engage in these activities are not deterred by the laws currently in place preventing these activities. Closing the “lead generator” loophole and asking legitimate businesses and busy consumers to give one-to-one consent is going to do very little to deter any of these bad actors. Moreover, many of these bad actors are not based in the US and will not be deterred by any part of this FCC rule.

Either way, I think it is amazing that small businesses poured in with comments sharing the impact on their business and consumers. This is valuable information for the FCC to know. Whether it will make a difference is yet to be seen. But one’s thing for sure, we will let you know as soon as it happens!

In the meantime, it’s probably best to start taking steps and exploring what the 1 to 1 consent might look like for your business.

Til next time, Countess!!!

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