Are those "FREE" things you offer clients illegal?

This is being posted for the benefit of Texas Inspectors to help you better understand if those “FREE” things you advertise to your clients are illegal or not. This is being posted here for the benefit of all Texas Inspectors and not just INACHI members.

In the INACHI private section a post is ongoing where a Vendor of services and products is selling his wares to Inspectors and telling them to advertise it as a “Free” thing but to add the cost of that item into their inspection fee that the Inspector is charging the consumer. The vendor is claiming that it will significantly boost your business by offering this Free" thing to the consumer. In fact through the Vendor’s own admission this “Free” thing is actually not “FREE”!

During this discussion I took the opportunity to send an RFI to TREC requesting clarification if an Inspector is violating any law and rule by claiming the thing is “Free” and yet padding their inspection fee by the amount it cost them to buy it? With blinding speed TREC responded back and I was very impressed with the response time! According to TREC this practice can fall under a violation of Section 535.221, Advertisements. Even though TREC did not state the other sections I asked about if you violated that section then you obviously have violated various parts of Section 535.220, Professional Conduct and Ethics.

If you are an Inspector that is advertising any type of “Free” thing that you are paying for in any way, that includes non-monetary payments of any kind or type, I would highly advise that you contact TREC and provide them ALL of the details of the program and “Free” thing you are advertising to consumers. Ask them to make a specific ruling on your details and “Free” thing offering. If TREC blesses your “Free” offering then go for it and good luck! If TREC rules against it then obviously you need to consider stopping the program. I can not see TREC trying to penalize you for anything you bring forth if you are doing this in good faith and in the interst of ethical operations. I have requested in the past a number of potential offerings plans to them when I was not sure and they are nothing short of helpful and in no interest to penalize for getting the information to run legally.

This is also being posted for the benefit of any consumer out there that is reading this post as well. Part of the Law and Rules for licensed Inspectors is to act ethically when dealing with consumers and act to protect their best interest and not the Inspector’s best interest. Nothing is “Free” and there is always a catch! At the very least you will be providing the approval for an Inspector to basically sell your personal contact information for marketing purposes for the benefit to get that “Free” thing. At the worst your Inspection fee is being increased at least by the amount the Inspector is paying for that “Free” thing and possibly even much more as advocated by the Vendor discussed above. The rule, as always, is Caveat Emptor or “Buyer Beware”!

This makes me laugh inside. Thanks

Excellent point…They should charge $.05. This way its not “free”…

Actually, I could make that work. Awesome inspection blah blah and for one penny you get life time support with our recall chek program blah blah blah.

Oh wait…I would still be lying because it actually costs me more. The only way to do it would be offer a rebate! It can’t be instant though cause that’s the same as free so they have to mail in a form. Oh shoot…but then I’d be hoping they forget to mail in the rebate. Well shoot. There is no ethical way to offer this. I’m not doing it anymore.

Ok ok ok I got it now. I offer it to my clients at the same exact price that I pay for it. I can even have them make the check out too Nathan so there is no gray area. This way there is no value added to the inspection at all and I’ll be just like the OP!

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Seems a certain someone is mad other Inspectors are offering more to their clients.

Maybe this has been mentioned already but try this: you increase your fees so you can cover and profit from the product / service you are going to add to your arsenal, you advertise that the product / service is “INCLUDED” with every home inspection an you do not perform a home inspection without including the product / service.

As far as I know, you are allowed to add and provide products and services as you wish within the law and you are also allowed to raise your fees so you can make a profit.

I do not see a problem with saying “free” as long as you are providing the same service to all for the same fee. Charging bob 400 for a 1200 sqft house with the product / service for free and charging John 390 for the same house and no product / service would not be kosher.

Just my 2 cents.

Someone needs to take off their blinders.

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Suddenly we have an overflow of new Texas inspectors operating out of other states… Until you have actually operated an inspection business under the regulations of TREC, you should not presume to know what TREC will / will not find acceptable.

I don’t / won’t offer the service because: I have a low regard for the peddler; I am loathe to trust my reputation to others who I have not thoroughly vetted; I believe that the value of service is dubious; I absolutely will not sell my client’s information to other companies whether they peddle security monitoring, home warranties or whatever…

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Hello Chuck,

Your words are exactly the basis for this post. Many Inspectors do not realize the meaning of the word “FREE”. Free means without cost of any kind and that includes not having to pay for this item even with their personal contact information, regardless of how little information they provide. Consumers’ personal information is being sold off by these Inspectors to a company that will then market even more products and services to them. In this case the consumer may well be charged for obtaining this supposedly “Free” product and pay the Inspector to provide their personal information to this vendor so the vendor can make even more money off of the consumer.

You have probably already seen the thread on the internal bulletin board section and are aware of what this item is. For the benefit of other Inspectors, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF CONSUMERS, I have attached an excerpt of the form the Inspectors are going to submit showing the personal information that will be collected on them and their real estate transaction and provided to this vendor. All for the benefit of receiving this supposedly “Free” product.

The “Free” product is a check of recalls on a very small number of items that are found in the home as can be seen on the form. What is so sad about this program is that this information is truly available for “FREE” from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) under their product recall search function at . In fact this product recall search will allow consumers to view a great deal more products that they might own.

What should also be noted here is that the list of items that this supposedly “Free” service is going to provide information on is suspiciously identical to the CPSC truly “Free” service and yet the vendor claims they have their own database of these items. If I was a consumer I would most certainly prefer to use the CPSC search function rather than some “For Profit” companies database they supposedly created themselves. The CPSC is the government watchdog agency that collects and disseminates these recalls from product manufacturers and I seriously doubt the manufacturers are reporting their defects directly to this “For Profit” company as well.

So in essence the consumers are paying someone (the Inspector) to sell off their information to this “For Profit” company when the consumer could have obtained the information, and much much more for free! It is interesting how any Inspector can justify their actions as not unethical when they can easily provide the SaferRecall site link (see above) in their report rather than selling off the consumers’ information? Of course as you can see from the posts here and the internal post these Inspectors call it “Doing Business”.

LOL absolutely ridiculous.

I certainly hope that anyone who engages in this, clearly notifies their client that their information is being sold, or at the very least provided, to third parties for the express purpose of marketing services to them. IMO: It is unethical to do anything less than disclose that you are doing this.

As a consumer, I take genuine issue when someone that I pay for a product or service, turns around and sells my information to someone else. I’m sure that most of my clients would appreciate me not selling them out either

My reputation is my single most valuable business asset. I’m not about to put it in the hands of a telemarketer.

I absolutely do let my client know that they can expect a phone call regarding the opportunity to get discounts on alarms systems. I also let them know they will receive an email giving them an opportunity to opt out of the call. It is also in the PIA that they sign.

In exchange I offer valued services along with their home inspection. I have never once had a client say that’s ridiculous I would rather go without those services and not bother with the possibility of having to take a phone call.

Personally I think anyone telling clients they are getting FREE stuff is not the best way to market because everyone knows nothing is FREE.

There is nothing unethical with offering other services with the home inspection. Mr. Scanlan you still have not answered how you believe it’s okay to bad mouth multi-inspector firms in your advertising. Like I said on the other thread, I think it’s quite alright, but it seems beneath this higher than everyone else ethical standard you have set for yourself.

Your personal disdain for this particular vendor is clouding your business sense on this one gentlemen.

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If I made some erroneous statement of fact, do please point it out to me so that I may correct it.

I have done that for you on numerous occasions. Too bad you missed the opportunity to correct your statements where errors of fact were pointed out to you.

Nathan would you mind defining “the right inspector”, please.

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