The Florida Bar
|General Information on Consumer Protection in Florida|
Note: This pamphlet is available online only.
Videos: Consumer Protection in Florida
A number of Florida state agencies work to protect consumers in their special areas of responsibility, but two state agencies have a special interest in consumer protection on a statewide basis: the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the Florida Office of the Attorney General, Department of Legal Affairs.
The Division of Consumer Services of the Florida Department of Agriculture maintains a toll-free statewide consumer hot line -- (800) 435-7352 -- to handle questions and complaints.
The Division of Consumer Services receives and processes complaints within the areas it regulates: motor vehicle repair shops, charitable organizations, pawnbrokers, health studios, sellers of travel, intrastate movers, professional surveyors and mappers, sweepstakes/game promotions and telemarketers. In addition, the division protects consumers and businesses from unfair and unsafe business practices across a range of market sectors, including gasoline, brake fluid, antifreeze, liquefied petroleum gas, amusement rides, and weighing and measuring devices. The division also refers complaints to other agencies if the agency exercises jurisdiction over the dispute. If you cannot determine who might assist you with your problem, call the Division of Consumer Services at (800) 435-7352.
The other state agency with general consumer interest responsibilities is the Florida Department of Legal Affairs of the Florida Attorney General. The Department of Legal Affairs' Office of Citizens Services at (850) 414-3990 oversees state regulations that protect consumer interests in many types of transactions. The department can file suit on behalf of the public, although it does not act as a private attorney would in handling individual cases on behalf of individual consumers. The Consumer Protection Division has specific enforcement authority and interest in some major consumer problem areas, including misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices. There is a consumer hot line for fraud at (866) 9NO-SCAM, or (866) 966-7226.
The Attorney General’s Lemon Law Arbitration Division enforces manufacturer and dealer compliance with Florida’s motor vehicle “Lemon Law.” It also provides a forum for resolution of disputes between consumers and manufacturers that arise under the Lemon Law and operates a toll-free “Lemon Law Hotline” telephone complaint line. The Lemon Law Arbitration Division is statutorily responsible for reviewing and determining whether certification of manufacturer-sponsored informal dispute resolution programs is appropriate and for monitoring the RV Mediation/Arbitration Program, an industry-sponsored dispute resolution program for recreation vehicle disputes. For more specific information about the Florida Lemon Law, including the steps necessary to pursue a lemon law claim and a searchable list of vehicles reported as bought back by manufacturers, go to the “How the Florida Lemon Law Works” webpage. click here. Some coverage is different for recreation vehicles.
Some of the more populous counties, such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pasco, Orange and Pinellas counties, also have county consumer protection or consumer service agencies.
A local Better Business Bureau or similar organization also may be able to assist you. In many cases, consumers with legitimate complaints will have to pursue their problems through an attorney or attempt to go to court on their own behalf by using the Small Claims Court, which is available in every county in Florida.
If you are considering Small Claims Court, call or visit the Office of the Clerk of the County Court. You usually will find the members of the clerk's staff helpful in answering your questions regarding procedures and fees for handling your own case. Also, some counties have small-claims clinics to assist in the preparation of small-claims cases. Contact your local bar association or consumer agency to find out if a clinic is available in your area.
The type of damages and the amount of money you can sue for in Small Claims Court is limited, and you should bear in mind that, if the value of what is involved is substantial, you may find that consulting with an attorney is a wise investment.
If you believe you need legal advice, call your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, go to The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service page or call (800) 342-8011.
List of consumer protection agencies:
U.S. Department of Transportation Auto Safety Hotline (888) 327-4236, www.safercar.gov
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (800) 638-2772, www.cpsc.gov
U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (855) 411-CFPB/(855) 411-2372, http://www.consumerfinance.gov/
U.S. Federal Trade Commission, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/
Florida Division of Consumer Services (800) 435-7352, www.800helpfla.com
Florida Department of Financial Services (877) 693-5236, www.myfloridacfo.com
Florida Attorney General (866) 9NO-SCAM (866-966-7226), www.myfloridalegal.com
Agency for Health Care Administration (888) 419-3456, www.floridahealthfinder.gov
The Public Service Commission (800) 342-3552, www.psc.state.fl.us
The Florida Poison Information Center (800) 222-1222, www.poisoncentertampa.org