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Florida Consumer E-Newsletter - September 2009 Edition‏


Charles H. Bronson, CommissionerDear Friends:

For more than 40 years, the Division of Consumer Services has been protecting consumers from deceptive business practices, providing consumer information, and promoting a positive business environment in Florida. The Division has regulatory authority over some of Florida's business industries. These include: business opportunities, motor vehicle repair shops, solicitation of charitable contributions, Florida Do Not Call, dance studios, pawnshops, health studios (Gyms), sellers of travel, intrastate movers, game promotions, telemarketing, and administers the Florida Lemon Law program in conjunction with the Florida Attorney General.  In addition, the Division functions as the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission's liaison in Florida regarding product recalls, inspections, and investigations.

Consumer Complaint Process   The Division functions as the state’s clearinghouse for all consumer complaints. A consumer that has a dispute with any business is able to utilize this process and seek a settlement through formal or informal mediation. All complaints are reviewed and the business listed in the complaint evaluated for compliance with applicable statutory provisions. Consumers can also contact the Division to check a company’s complaint history prior to doing business with them.  Through our complaint process, we were able to recover more than $7.5 million for consumers in 2008.

Consumer Relations and Outreach   Operating under the premise that education is the best defense against fraud and deception, this section of the Division promotes educational outreach programs which are aimed at raising public awareness of consumer protection issues. The focus is on giving individuals the tools they need to be better consumers and to make informed decisions when signing contracts and/or purchasing products and services. This is done through our website at www.800helpfla.com, newspaper articles, the Florida Consumer e-Newsletter, brochures, and public presentations.

Florida Do Not Call Program   The Division implements and enforces this program, giving Florida consumers privacy from unwanted sales calls. Residential, mobile, or paging device telephone numbers may be registered for an initial fee of $10 per phone number and an annual renewal fee of $5 per number. If you’ve registered your phone number and are still receiving sales calls, please report the violator by either calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or by filling out an online complaint form at www.800helpfla.com.

Price Gouging Hotline   It is illegal to charge exorbitant or excessive prices for items of necessity during a state of emergency. When Florida’s governor declares a state of emergency, the Division’s Consumer Assistance Center is transformed into the Price Gouging Hotline. If you feel you have been a victim of price gouging during a declared state of emergency, call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) to report the potential violation.

A-Z Resource Guide   If you have ever had an issue that needed attention but weren’t sure of the proper agency or resource to contact, this guide may be your saving grace. Developed by the Division and utilized by many other state agencies, this online ever-evolving database of information is extremely user friendly.

Gift Givers Guide -- How is your favorite charity spending your donations?   Most bona fide charities that solicit funds in this state are required to register with the Division. The charity is mandated to submit detailed financial information to the Division which is in turn made available to you through our online database called the Gift Givers’ Guide. This guide allows you to search the charities to determine if they are registered and how they spend their money on program expenses, administrative, and fundraising costs.

Florida’s Lemon Law   Every year millions of dollars are recovered for Florida’s consumers by the automobile manufacturer’s dispute resolution programs certified by the Division. If you think you may have a “lemon,” allow one of our Lemon Law Specialists to guide you through the process to see if you are eligible for a refund or a replacement vehicle. Simply call 1-800-321-5366 to speak with a Lemon Law specialist.

Remember, we’re here for you – visit our website at www.800helpfla.com or call our Consumer Assistance Center if you would like additional information.  If you are calling within Florida simply dial 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), outside of Florida 850-488-2221 or en Español 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Sincerely, Bronsonsig.jpg

Charles H. Bronson, Commissioner





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