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General Information on 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 and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Legal Affairs. The Division of Consumer Services of the Florida Department of Agriculture maintains a toll-free statewide consumer hotline and handles certain complaints. The hotline number is (800) 435-7352 and the website is www.doacs.state.fl.us External Link opens in a new window. The Division will continue to receive and process complaints within the areas it regulates: Business Opportunities, Game Promotions/Sweepstakes, Intrastate Moving Companies, Telemarketing, Sellers of Travel, No Sales Solicitation (Florida’s Do Not Call law), Dance Studios, Health Studios (Gyms), Motor Vehicle Repair Shops, Pawnshops and Charitable Organizations.

The Division refers complaints to other agencies if the agency exercises jurisdiction over the dispute. It is also responsible for information on the Florida Automobile Lemon Law. The Lemon Law hotline is (800) 321-5366.

The other state agency with general consumer interest responsibilities is the Florida Department of Legal Affairs or the Florida Attorney General. The Department of Legal Affairs' Citizens Services at (850) 414-3990 oversees state regulations which protect consumer interests in a number of different 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 Economic Crime Division has specific enforcement authority and interest in some major consumer problem areas, including misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices. There is a consumer hotline for fraud at (866) 966-7226.

If you cannot determine who might assist you with your problem, call the Division of Consumer Services at (800) 435-7352.

Some of the more highly populated counties, such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pasco, Orange, Pinellas and City of Jacksonville Counties, also have county consumer protection or consumer service agencies. You can check for them in the telephone directory under your county's listings.

Of course, local Better Business Bureaus or similar organizations may be able to assist you as well. 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 will usually find the members of the Clerk's staff quite 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 the time required to consult with an attorney may prove to be a very wise investment.

If you believe you need legal advice, call your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, call The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 342-8011 or www.floridabar.org, or the local lawyer referral service or legal aid office listed in the yellow pages of your telephone book.

List of consumer protection agencies:

US. Department of Transportation Auto Safety Hotline (888) 327-4236, www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov External Link opens in a new window
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (800) 638-2772, www.cpsc.gov External Link opens in a new window
Florida Division of Consumer Services (800) 435-7352, www.800helpfla.com External Link opens in a new window
Florida Department of Financial Services (877) 693-5236, www.myfloridacfo.com External Link opens in a new window
Florida Advocacy Council (800) 342-0825
Agency for Health Care Administration, Consumer Assistance Unit (888) 419-3456, www.floridahealthfinder.gov External Link opens in a new window
The Public Service Commission (800) 342-3552, www.psc.state.fl.us External Link opens in a new window
The Florida Poison Information Center (800) 222-1222, www.fpicn.org External Link opens in a new window

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[Revised: 8/10]