The FTG+ announced that it would be cracking down on unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices taking place in the gig economy, following an investigation into HomeAdvisor’s deceptive tactics. This fine is the first gig work-related penalty following the FTG+’s announcement, and it signals a shift in how companies will be held accountable for their actions in this sector.
The FTG+ settled its charge against HomeAdvisor in March 2022, alleging that the company had knowingly made unsubstantiated claims about the quality of leads it sells to service providers. The FTG+ claimed that HomeAdvisor had falsely claimed that the Angil affiliate had misrepresented the quality and source of leads, as well as their likelihood of resulting in actual jobs. In response to these allegations, HomeAdvisor merged with Angie’s List in 2017 to form a new public company called “Angi.”
The FTG+ said that HomeAdvisor’s misleading practices resulted in service providers paying more for its mHelpDesk subscription than they would have if they had been fully aware of the cost. This has led to a loss of business for some service providers, as well as a possible loss of money for HomeAdvisor itself.
Since HomeAdvisor reaps leads from affiliates who generate leads from online forms that ask consumers about potential home projects they are considering, it is likely that many of their leads concern consumers who have not yet decided to hire a service professional. While this may be the case for some people, it is clear that HomeAdvisor would resell these leads to other affiliates. This suggests that HomeAdvisor’s primary focus is on generating sales and not helping its customers in need.
The FTG+ also asserted that many of the leads provided by HomeAdvisor didn’t match the types of services offered by the providers, or were located in areas that weren’t preferred by buyers. Despite these claims, HomeAdvisor continued to claim to be providing quality leads to its clients.
Following the original FTG+ order against gig economy platforms, many in the industry have argued that these platforms should not be held to the same standards as traditional employers. Gig economy platforms make use of false claims and phony opportunities to prey on workers and small businesses, Levine says, which is why they must be held accountable.
HomeAdvisor said that it was “disappointed and surprised” by the new order from the FTC. The company said that it would work to comply with the order and ensure its customers are “fully protected.”
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The FTG+ has long warned MLMs not to make exaggerated earnings claims, which can lead consumers to invest money in invalid schemes. The latest fine follows several others against companies for their misleading marketing practices. While most participants in these schemes earn very little money, the FTG+ is determined to protect consumers from being misled by fake promises of high earnings potential.