|March 7, 2014
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
|en Español||Print Version||Tweet|
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and Attorney General Pam Bondi is dedicated to protecting Florida’s consumers. Floridians work hard to earn a living and businesses work hard to remain profitable. Deceptive and unfair business practices can be costly to both consumers and legitimate businesses. Attorney General Bondi’s Division of Consumer Protection works tirelessly to enforce Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, which is intended to protect individual consumers and legitimate businesses from various types of illegal conduct in trade or commerce. Through its enforcement efforts, the Attorney General’s Office has obtained $207 million in judgments and settlements on behalf of Florida consumers since January 2011. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office played a lead role in achieving the second largest civil settlement ever obtained by state attorneys general—the National Mortgage Settlement. Combined, Attorney General Bondi’s Office has achieved $9.85 billion in consumer protection judgments and settlements.
“Deceptive and unfair business practices harm our consumers and our economy by bilking hard-earned dollars from Florida consumers and creating an unequal playing field for legitimate businesses. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect consumers and businesses from these unscrupulous practices," stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of a consumer protection scam, do not hesitate to call my Consumer Protection hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM."
To date, the Attorney General’s Office has, among other things, helped reform the mortgage servicing industry, worked to protect distressed homeowners, revamped Florida’s timeshare resale laws to protect our tourism industry, sought to protect our military personnel from consumer scams targeting them through enhanced consumer protection penalties, and aggressively pursued scam artists in any number of different industries, obtaining asset freezes, shutting down illegitimate businesses, and obtaining consumer restitution, as appropriate.
Attorney General Bondi encourages consumers to do the following:
· Research companies prior to making any purchases or other transactions;
· Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call registry by visiting DoNotCall.gov;
· Never provide your social security number unless it is required and certainly never give it out to a stranger over the phone or via the Internet;
· Be careful when providing any sensitive information via the Internet or over the phone; and
· Check your credit report at least every 12 months. The law provides you with one free credit report check once every twelve months. You can check your credit by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Some of the Consumer Protection Division’s more significant accomplishments under Attorney General Bondi include the following.
Helping Distressed Homeowners by:
· Taking a leading role in achieving the largest multistate attorney general settlement, other than the Tobacco Settlement, in history, totaling $25 billion, with $9.64 billion in relief going for the benefit of Floridians.
· Working closely with the Legislature to direct $334 million in National Mortgage Settlement money to fund housing programs, housing and legal counseling, and related programs.
· Advocating on behalf of homeowners who need assistance obtaining relief under the settlement and actively monitoring compliance with the new mortgage servicing standards required by the settlement.
Helping Protect Consumers of “Last Dollar” Fraud by:
· Pursuing foreclosure rescue scams: 33 Cases, $11.1 million.
· Taking on Debt Relief and Debt Management Company Abuses: 19 Cases, $27 Million.
· Obtaining industry-reforming settlements with the five major pre-paid debit card companies that improve the disclosures made in consumer advertisements and on the face of the cards regarding fees charged to use or renew the cards.
Helping Preserve Florida’s Integrity as a Top Tourist Destination by:
· Tackling timeshare resale fraud, once the Office’s highest consumer complaint category, by leading the charge to obtain comprehensive industry-reforming legislation regarding timeshare resale advertising requirements and aggressively enforcing the law. As a result of the office’s efforts, complaints in the area have dropped from more than 12,000 in 2010 to less than 2,000 in 2013. To date, 30 cases have been resolved for a total of $32.2 million.
· Pursuing travel and vacation clubs that mislead consumers in ads to secure their participation in programs designed to obtain undisclosed fees, payments, or other financial obligations from the consumer. To date: 11 cases have been resolved for $15 million.
Protecting our Military from Consumer Scams by:
· Working with the Legislature to enhance the consumer protection penalties when the victims of the scams are members of our military or their families.
Pursuing Dollars Lost by the State of Florida due to False Claims by:
· Working with the Legislature to enhance Florida’s False Claims Act. The legislation provided much-needed subpoena power as an additional enforcement tool that will help the Attorney General’s Office in pursuing the return of dollars lost to false claims made by vendors who do business with state agencies.
· Obtaining a $28 million settlement with the Bank of New York Mellon to resolve allegations that the bank overcharged the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund by millions of dollars in its handling of foreign currency transactions.
Consumers can report fraudulent or deceptive activity by accessing the Attorney General’s website at MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
For more information about National Consumer Protection Week, please visit ncpw.gov.