Is it ethical to use rejected leads?

Anyone who is in the lead business whether as the primary supplier or a broker knows that in every batch of leads provided to a client there is a percentage of leads that are rejected. The reasons vary based on the benchmark the client is using to qualify the leads. If the client is a call center they are qualifying the leads based on phone numbers, leads are rejected if the number is disconnected or the wrong number and even though these leads come with both phones and email addresses they don’t care about the emails because they are using the data strictly for calling.  This is the case for most call centers.  On the other hand if the client is a marketing company that is using the email address but not the phones they would reject leads based on bounce backs (bad email addresses) whether the phones are good numbers or not.

So let’s say that the call center is paying you the supplier based on good leads based of course on good phone numbers, and that you do not get paid if the phone number is disconnected or a wrong number.  So out of 10000 leads let us assume that there was a 15% disconnect/wrong number rate meaning you got paid for 8500 leads and payment was withheld from 1500 leads.  What if the call center then takes those 1500 rejected leads and sends an email to them advertising whatever it is their offer is, driving traffic to their website? Is this ethical? You were not paid for these leads because they were rejected, should the call center be using leads that you were not paid for?

While the answer for this might be grey for many, not so much for me; if a lead is used in any capacity then the provider should be paid.  The call center did not pay for those leads and therefore should not benefit from them in any way whatsoever.  As a supplier or provider of leads this should be discussed prior to supplying the first lead, you need to determine what the classification of a lead is based on what and how they are going to be used.  If a call center tells you that their primary method of contact is phone, but that when they cannot get a hold of someone on the phone or the phone is not a valid number they then attempt to email them, then you should be paid for that data regardless if the phone number is good or not.  You will probably want to charge less for this record; maybe you are only charging half the cost of the other leads since the phones are not valid.

Companies that are purchasing leads need to be ethical and honest and tell the supplier exactly what they are going to be using the leads for and what fields will be used and under what circumstances. Full disclosure is a must for a long term healthy relationship with your supplier and conducting ethical business should not be a choice.  Suppliers may want to consider seeding their data with phone numbers and email addresses so that they know what is being done with the data, and make sure that your agreement is in writing, even if it’s with an existing client.