Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fwd: Attorney General Consumer Alert

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: AGNews <AGNews@oag.state.fl.us>
Date: Jun 12, 2006 12:51 PM
Subject: Attorney General Consumer Alert

An Attorney General Consumer Alert has been issued.

Please click the web address below to view the alert online.

Please do not hit Reply to send a message to Attorney General
Crist or the Attorney General's Office. This email address cannot
receive incoming messages. If you wish to contact the Attorney
General's Office, please go to
and use the convenient Contact Form provided there. Thank you.

The text version of the Consumer Alert is below.

Crist Issues Consumer Alert as Tropical Storm Alberto Approaches Florida

TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Charlie Crist today urged Floridians
and visitors to take all necessary safety precautions as the first
tropical storm of the 2006 season approaches the state. Crist also
cautioned consumers to be alert for unscrupulous business operators
who try to take advantage of them. The Attorney General's action
follows Governor Jeb Bush's official declaration of a state of
emergency for all of Florida due to Tropical Storm Alberto.

"Safety should be our top priority as this storm approaches," said
Crist. "Unfortunately, Floridians are becoming all too familiar with
the threat of storms and we hope our citizens have taken the necessary
steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. We are also standing
ready to make sure price gougers don't victimize our citizens and
guests struggling in the face of the storms."

Those who suspect price gouging before or after the storm should call
the Attorney General's hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226),
and investigators will look into the complaint. Florida law prohibits
extreme increases in the price of such commodities as food, water,
hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment needed as a direct result
of an officially declared emergency.

Under Florida law, a commodity's price is unconscionable if the
increase in the price represents a "gross disparity" from the average
price of that commodity during the 30 days immediately prior to the
declared emergency. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject
to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation, up to a total of $25,000
for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.

In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, a law enacted
last year criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public
without possessing an occupational license. Violators of the law can
be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

Crist also cautioned consumers to be wary of business scams that might
arise in the wake of Alberto, including building repair and tree
removal companies that come into storm-affected areas. The Attorney
General said residents should deal whenever possible with established
local companies when they contract for repairs or arrange financing to
pay for any repairs that might not be covered by insurance.

Consumers should be wary of any unsolicited "contractor" who knocks on
the door with an offer to fix a damaged roof or windows. Before
signing any contracts, Floridians should check the contractor's
license, payment terms and other provisions, Crist said.

During the past two record-setting hurricane seasons, the Attorney
General's Office conducted thousands of preliminary investigations
into price gouging complaints, initiated 83 formal investigations and
filed 17 price gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses,
tree removal companies and other businesses. To date, the Attorney
General's Office has recovered more than $1.8 million in restitution
or reimbursements for Florida consumers from price gouging settlements
and other resolutions. Other investigations and settlement
negotiations are ongoing.

Thank you.

""Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."" by Dr. Seuss.

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