License Number Advertising

While ignorance of the laws is no excuse, as we are often taught as children, the multi-layered complexity of contractor’s regulation in California is not an easy lesson. With full-time work as licensed contractors it helps ease the load just knowing you have an expert ‘on call’ when the inevitable question comes up about breaking those rules. As readers know, sometimes those ‘rule’ breakers are looking for a competitive edge, legal or not…

Q:  Could you tell me what are the requirements for a contractor using his correct name in advertising?   My local newspaper has an entire page of contractors (and other professionals) listing their services.  I went through the “home repair” listings (because this is my specialty) and all four had an incorrect name.  Isn’t there a requirement that a contractor use the name on his license?  Why doesn’t the newspaper disallow these ads?

A:  The CSLB has a number of requirements for contractors who advertise – including use of their correct name style.  As we have discussed in our past columns, and as the Contractors Board has included in their periodic newsletter, you cannot advertise using a company name different than what is on your official CSLB license.

Since you provided me with the name of your local newspaper, I decided to do a non-scientific “investigation”.  Of the 30+ ads from licensed contractors published on this particular Sunday, I selected about a dozen at random.  80% had an incorrect name style.  Not only that but one of the advertisers had their license revoked in 2013; two had suspended licenses; and one contractor’s license expired a few months ago.  In addition, one of your competitors was running more than one ad, each with a different business name; yet he was using the same license number (which is not legal).

Advertising is a good way for contractors to get heir name known locally; however, as you’re likely aware, it is not lawful to contract unless the license is in good standing.  While many newspapers require a contractor to list their license number, I doubt they check on the business name and they rarely do any follow-up once the ad begins running.

Since a contractor can be issued a citation or face disciplinary action for using an incorrect business name, this might be a good time for all licensed contractors to review their advertising program.  It is also a good time to check the CSLB web site to make sure YOUR license is current and in good standing.  For instance, do your Bond and Worker’s Comp show they’re renewed (with no pending suspension)?  Is your license due to be renewed, but you’ve not received the application form from the Board?  Are your current Officers listed on the Board’s records?   As always, if there are any problems related to your license, please contact Capitol Services to see if we can help in resolving licensing issues.

Q:  It is my understanding that advertising must have your number included.  Does that apply to shirts with your company name and logo on them?

A:  This seems to be somewhat of a “grey area”.  CSLB regulations require that any time a licensed contractor advertises their services, whether on paper, over the airwaves or on the Internet, a license number must appear.  This includes but is not limited to; letterhead, business cards, any type of direct listing, airwave transmissions, newspaper ads, vehicle lettering, or any form of advertising.

Clothing and caps are not mentioned, BUT according to the Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) at the CSLB, clothing and any give-away items are considered advertising, therefore if you want to be safe, include the license number!!