For businesses to thrive and succeed, they must compete on a level playing field. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous businesses that seek to profit by skirting laws and operating unethically.
Under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, my office investigates and pursues those who engage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive trade practices. We also work closely with the Federal Trade Commission and other states to investigate scams with national or regional impact.
In the past year, the Consumer Protection Division obtained more than $47 million in recoveries in Florida. These numbers do not include the more than $8 billion in consumer benefit received by borrowers from the National Mortgage Settlement, which my office took a leading role in obtaining in 2012.
In December, we reached a settlement with several companies resolving allegations regarding the placement of unauthorized charges on consumer telephone bills, a practice known as “cramming.” The settlement resolved allegations the company and its client companies charged Florida customers for voicemail, e-fax, and other services without the customers’ consent.
If customers discovered the charges and complained, they were often only refunded the amount they knew about or two to three months of charges when, in many cases, they had been billed for much longer. Among other things, the settlement obtained $2.3 million in restitution that is available to more than 18,000 Florida consumers. The company is also prohibited from enrolling Florida customers in any third-party services without their consent.
When businesses use deceptive practices to attract consumers, legitimate companies are put in the position of competing in an unfair marketplace. We take our responsibility of protecting both consumers and businesses seriously.