Substitutes proxy telephone number for all listed in directory.
Please look at a new website that I believe can seriously damage how construction service providers like ourselves get work and communicate with the public. The website is primarily oriented towards residential contractors but many of us do both and the commercial guys get their business names harvested and diverted like the others.
The website is HelpHive.com
Helphive.com provides no real service to our community but seeks to corrupt the relationship between homeowners and their service providers.
Helphive.com is not like other home service locator websites. They look like other sites and they are similar but they are very different because of these unique characteristics:
1. They have harvested all merchants and/or contractors in the home services/home repair categories in a particular region. (Like a real directory). Unlike a real directory that actually may serve some useful purpose to the public, they do not faithfully provide the information a directory provides, namely the company name, address and phone. They remove the phone number of the listed company and substitute their own proxy phone number for the real one. At this point the website is no longer a public serving directory but a tool for manipulating the public and the business community in a local area. The phone number attached to the service providers’ listing now misdirects all incoming calls to Helphive's data collection servers. The caller thinks that they have called the service provider. They get a recording that states that the service provider is unavailable. The message recording then proceeds to collect the callers name, contact info, type of service desired, how soon they need the work etc. Helphive has effectively just hijacked the service providers incoming customer.
2. Once the hijacked customer data is collected the question is what is Helphive doing with the stolen customers information. Well, they simply attempt to sell it. First of all, they attempt to sell it back to the company they stole it from. They call it “Referral Pro Plan. For an annual fee plus 5% of the job value the service provider can buy his own lead back from Helphive. Of course Helphive maintains that it is “their” lead in spite of the fact that the lead was generated with false contact information in their faux service provider directory. If the service provider balks and does not agree to pay Helphive then Helphive simply utilizes the lead for their own purposes. Since Helphive gets a percentage of all actual work done by any participating service provider, it is obvious that Helphive is not going to allow that hot active lead to go to waste. The stolen lead has nowhere to go really except to one of their participating service providers that are willing to pay Helphive 5% of the job value.
The Helphive business model is based upon an unethical, and I believe - illegal, misappropriation of an entire communities’ business’s property. There is benefit to neither the business community nor the public with such a scheme.
The Helphive business model is apparently based upon:
1. Their belief that they are entitled to do what they please with property belonging to others.
Specifically registered trade names, trademarks and contact information including a business telephone number.
2. Their belief that it is OK to create the illusion to the consumer that the information presented in a directory format is real and that it belongs to the service provider when in actually it is a bait and switch technique. The entire directory is a half-truth; The company name, logo, address etc is accurate but the phone number is a fraud. The message conveyed to the caller is a lie “The service provider is unavailable please leave your info etc).
3. The mistaken assumption on the part of the principles of Helphive that those of us in the service industry are going to lay down and take this corruption of needed and useful directory information on the internet shows profound ignorance on their part. These marketing geeks need a reality check in a big way.
Since this situation came to my attention last week October 30, 2009 I have had to compromise my normal work schedule and concentrate my efforts on getting this situation remedied. Apparently nobody else has noticed has dangerous the mindset and business activities of Helphive are to the public and service companies like mine.
As of today I have taken the following actions:
A complaint was filed with the Washington State Attorney General
A complaint was filed with the Washington State BBB
I contacted 6 Washington State contractor groups and associations
I contacted my attorney regarding a civil suit and requested research regarding a possible criminal complaint
We are actively seeking others that feel they have been damaged or believe that may suffer future damages that are willing to participate in a class action lawsuit.
The media is starting to pick up this controversial subject. Here is a tech blog by John Cook at Techflash that is generating some comment::
I contacted 50 service providers from Helphive faux directory asking them to take a look at the site and comment. Every one of them reacted the same way I did when they examined the website.
If you have an interest in this matter Please contact me: