The telemarketing industry is well known for aggressive sales tactics and deceptive practices. Florida’s Telemarketing Act is a set of laws designed to protect consumers from such practices. Read on to learn more about what telemarketers can and cannot do in the state of Florida, as well as how Florida law can help you avoid harassing sales calls and deal with telemarketers who violate the law. (Learn about other Florida laws that protect consumers.)
Who Must Comply with Florida’s Telemarketing Laws
Florida’s telemarketing laws apply to businesses located within the state that make telemarketing calls, as well as businesses located in other states that call Florida residents. However, certain entities such as religious organizations, newspapers, banks, charities, and political organizations are generally exempt from Florida’s telemarketing laws.
Telemarketers Must Have a License to Operate in Florida
Businesses and salespeople that engage in telemarketing must obtain a license from the Florida Division of Consumer Services (the entity that manages telemarketing activities in the state) before operating in Florida.
How to Find Out if a Telemarketer Has a License
If you want to find out if a particular business or salesperson holds a Florida telemarketing license, go to the Division of Consumer Services website. Click on “Business Services” and then “Business/Complaint Lookup.” Enter the name of the company or salesperson in the “Name” search box. If the company or salesperson is properly licensed, the search results will show the license type as “Commercial Telephone Seller” or "Commercial Telephone Salesperson" along with an expiration date for the license.
Florida’s Telemarketing Restrictions
Telemarketers in Florida must comply with some very strict restrictions including when they can call you, what they must say when they call you, and what they can’t say. For example:
- Telemarketing curfew. Telemarketing curfews limit the times that telemarketers can call potential customers. In Florida, telemarketers may only call you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- Telemarketers can’t block caller ID. Under Florida law, telemarketers may not block their name or number from showing up on your caller identification system.
- Telemarketers can’t say certain things. Telemarketers can't tell you that you can only pay for their service by credit card.
- Telemarketers must say certain things when you first pick up the call. From the time you answer the call, the telemarketer has 30 seconds to state his or her true name, the name of the company the telemarketer represents, and the goods or services being sold.
- Telemarketers must tell you about your right to cancel. If you agree to buy the goods or services that the telemarketer is offering, the telemarketer must provide you with information about your right to cancel the agreement. For example, if you verbally agree to purchase the goods or services over the phone, but do not sign a contract, you can back out of the agreement and do not have to pay any money. On the other hand, once you sign a contract, you generally have three business days to cancel the contract (in writing) after the seller sends you a confirmation of the sale.
What to Do If a Telemarketer Violates the Law
If a telemarketer has violated any of these requirements or restrictions, you can do one or more of the following things.
File a Complaint With the Florida Division of Consumer Services
To report a violation, go to the Florida Division of Consumer Services webpage and click on “File a Complaint” to find general complaint forms. If the department believes the telemarketer is in violation of the law, it will take action against the telemarketer. Violators of Florida's telemarketing laws are subject to a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation and possibly criminal penalties as well.
Get a Refund
Under Florida law, you are entitled to a refund if you return the goods or make a written request for a refund within seven days after you receive the goods or services.
File a Lawsuit Against the Telemarketer
If you can’t get the telemarketer to give you a refund, you can sue the telemarketer to recover your actual damages and/or punitive damages, including costs, court costs, and attorney’s fees. (Start by keeping track of the telemarketer's violations with Nolo's Telemarketing Phone Call Log.)
Add Yourself to Telemarketing Do Not Call Lists
Do-not-call (DNC) lists protect consumers from unwanted calls from telemarketers.
How to add yourself to the national DNC list. The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission maintain a national DNC list. The registry is nationwide and applies to all telemarketers (though certain organizations, such as non-profit organizations, are exempt). You can add your number to this database by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website.
How to add yourself to the Florida DNC list. Some states, including Florida, have their own DNC list. If you opt into the Florida DNC list, telemarketers cannot contact you on your residential phone, cell phone, or paging device. You can sign up for the DNC list at www.fldnc.com. Your number will remain on the list for five years. (Learn more in Florida Do-Not-Call Laws.)
Opting out of calls from a particular company or organization. Under Florida law, if you tell a telemarketer that you no longer wish to receive calls from that company, the telemarketer must stop calling you. This law also applies to charitable organizations seeking charitable contributions.