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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title XXXIII
REGULATION OF TRADE, COMMERCE, INVESTMENTS, AND SOLICITATIONS
Chapter 501
CONSUMER PROTECTION
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F.S. 501.059
501.059 Telephone solicitation.
(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Consumer” means an actual or prospective purchaser, lessee, or recipient of consumer goods or services.
(b) “Consumer goods or services” means real property or tangible or intangible personal property that is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, including, but not limited to, any such property intended to be attached to or installed in any real property without regard to whether it is so attached or installed, as well as cemetery lots and timeshare estates, and any services related to such property.
(c) “Department” means the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
(d) “Doing business in this state” means businesses that conduct telephonic sales calls from a location in Florida or from other states or nations to consumers located in Florida.
(e) “Merchant” means a person who, directly or indirectly, offers or makes available to consumers any consumer goods or services.
(f) “Telephone solicitor” means a natural person, firm, organization, partnership, association, or corporation, or a subsidiary or affiliate thereof, doing business in this state, who makes or causes to be made a telephonic sales call, including, but not limited to, calls made by use of automated dialing or recorded message devices.
(g) “Telephonic sales call” means a telephone call or text message to a consumer for the purpose of soliciting a sale of any consumer goods or services, soliciting an extension of credit for consumer goods or services, or obtaining information that will or may be used for the direct solicitation of a sale of consumer goods or services or an extension of credit for such purposes.
(h) “Unsolicited telephonic sales call” means a telephonic sales call other than a call made:
1. In response to an express request of the person called;
2. Primarily in connection with an existing debt or contract, if payment or performance of such debt or contract has not been completed at the time of such call;
3. To a person with whom the telephone solicitor has a prior or existing business relationship; or
4. By a newspaper publisher or his or her agent or employee in connection with his or her business.
(2) Any telephone solicitor who makes an unsolicited telephonic sales call to a residential, mobile, or telephonic paging device telephone number shall identify himself or herself by his or her true first and last names and the business on whose behalf he or she is soliciting immediately upon making contact by telephone with the person who is the object of the telephone solicitation.
(3)(a) If any residential, mobile, or telephonic paging device telephone subscriber notifies the department of his or her desire to be placed on a “no sales solicitation calls” listing indicating that the subscriber does not wish to receive unsolicited telephonic sales calls, the department shall place the subscriber on that listing.
(b) The department shall update its “no sales solicitation calls” listing upon receipt of initial consumer subscriptions or renewals and provide this listing for a fee to telephone solicitors upon request.
(c) All fees imposed pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the General Inspection Trust Fund for the administration of this section.
(d) If the Federal Trade Commission, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. s. 6102(a), establishes a national database that lists the telephone numbers of subscribers who object to receiving telephone solicitations, the department shall include those listings from the national database which relate to Florida in the listing established under this section.
(4) No telephone solicitor shall make or cause to be made any unsolicited telephonic sales call to any residential, mobile, or telephonic paging device telephone number if the number for that telephone appears in the then-current quarterly listing published by the department. Any telephone solicitor or person who offers for sale any consumer information which includes residential, mobile, or telephonic paging device telephone numbers, except directory assistance and telephone directories sold by telephone companies and organizations exempt under s. 501(c)(3) or (6) of the Internal Revenue Code, shall screen and exclude those numbers which appear on the division’s then-current “no sales solicitation calls” list. This subsection does not apply to any person licensed pursuant to chapter 475 who calls an actual or prospective seller or lessor of real property when such call is made in response to a yard sign or other form of advertisement placed by the seller or lessor.
(5) A telephone solicitor or other person may not initiate an outbound telephone call or text message to a consumer or donor or potential donor who has previously communicated to the telephone solicitor or other person that he or she does not wish to receive an outbound telephone call or text message:
(a) Made by or on behalf of the seller whose goods or services are being offered; or
(b) Made on behalf of a charitable organization for which a charitable contribution is being solicited.
(6)(a) A contract made pursuant to a telephonic sales call is not valid and enforceable against a consumer unless made in compliance with this subsection.
(b) A contract made pursuant to a telephonic sales call:
1. Shall be reduced to writing and signed by the consumer.
2. Shall comply with all other applicable laws and rules.
3. Shall match the description of goods or services as principally used in the telephone solicitations.
4. Shall contain the name, address, and telephone number of the seller, the total price of the contract, and a detailed description of the goods or services being sold.
5. Shall contain, in bold, conspicuous type, immediately preceding the signature, the following statement:

“You are not obligated to pay any money unless you sign this contract and return it to the seller.”

6. May not exclude from its terms any oral or written representations made by the telephone solicitor to the consumer in connection with the transaction.
(c) The provisions of this subsection do not apply to contractual sales regulated under other sections of the Florida Statutes, or to the sale of financial services, security sales, or sales transacted by companies or their wholly owned subsidiaries or agents, which companies are regulated by chapter 364, or to the sale of cable television services to the duly franchised cable television operator’s existing subscribers within that cable television operator’s franchise area, or to any sales where no prior payment is made to the merchant and an invoice accompanies the goods or services allowing the consumer 7 days to cancel or return without obligation for any payment.
(7)(a) A merchant who engages a telephone solicitor to make or cause to be made a telephonic sales call shall not make or submit any charge to the consumer’s credit card account or make or cause to be made any electronic transfer of funds until after the merchant receives from the consumer a copy of the contract, signed by the purchaser, which complies with this section.
(b) A merchant who conducts a credit card account transaction pursuant to this section shall be subject to the provisions of s. 817.62.
(c) The provisions of this subsection do not apply to a transaction:
1. Made in accordance with prior negotiations in the course of a visit by the consumer to a merchant operating a retail business establishment which has a fixed permanent location and where consumer goods are displayed or offered for sale on a continuing basis;
2. In which the consumer may obtain a full refund for the return of undamaged and unused goods or a cancellation of services notice to the seller within 7 days after receipt by the consumer, and the seller will process the refund within 30 days after receipt of the returned merchandise by the consumer;
3. In which the consumer purchases goods or services pursuant to an examination of a television, radio, or print advertisement or a sample, brochure, or catalog of the merchant that contains:
a. The name, address, and telephone number of the merchant;
b. A description of the goods or services being sold; and
c. Any limitations or restrictions that apply to the offer; or
4. In which the merchant is a bona fide charitable organization or a newspaper as defined in chapter 50.
(8)(a) No person shall make or knowingly allow a telephonic sales call to be made if such call involves an automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers or the playing of a recorded message when a connection is completed to a number called.
(b) Nothing herein prohibits the use of an automated telephone dialing system with live messages if the calls are made or messages given solely in response to calls initiated by the persons to whom the automatic calls or live messages are directed or if the telephone numbers selected for automatic dialing have been screened to exclude any telephone subscriber who is included on the department’s then-current “no sales solicitation calls” listing or any unlisted telephone number, or if the calls made concern goods or services that have been previously ordered or purchased.
(c) It shall be unlawful for any person who makes a telephonic sales call or causes a telephonic sales call to be made to fail to transmit or cause not to be transmitted the telephone number and, when made available by the telephone solicitor’s carrier, the name of the telephone solicitor to any caller identification service in use by a recipient of a telephonic sales call. However, it shall not be a violation to substitute, for the name and telephone number used in or billed for making the call, the name of the seller on behalf of which a telephonic sales call is placed and the seller’s customer service telephone number, which is answered during regular business hours. For purposes of this section, the term “caller identification service” means a service that allows a telephone subscriber to have the telephone number and, where available, the name of the calling party transmitted contemporaneously with the telephone call and displayed on a device in or connected to the subscriber’s telephone.
(d) It shall be unlawful for any person who makes a telephonic sales call or causes a telephonic sales call to be made to intentionally alter the voice of the caller in an attempt to disguise or conceal the identity of the caller in order to defraud, confuse, or financially or otherwise injure the recipient of a telephonic sales call or in order to obtain personal information from the recipient of a telephonic sales call which may be used in a fraudulent or unlawful manner.
(9)(a) The department shall investigate any complaints received concerning violations of this section. If, after investigating a complaint, the department finds that there has been a violation of this section, the department or the Department of Legal Affairs may bring an action to impose a civil penalty and to seek other relief, including injunctive relief, as the court deems appropriate against the telephone solicitor. The civil penalty shall be in the Class III category pursuant to s. 570.971 for each violation and shall be deposited in the General Inspection Trust Fund if the action or proceeding was brought by the department, or the Legal Affairs Revolving Trust Fund if the action or proceeding was brought by the Department of Legal Affairs. This civil penalty may be recovered in any action brought under this part by the department, or the department may terminate any investigation or action upon agreement by the person to pay a stipulated civil penalty. The department or the court may waive any civil penalty if the person has previously made full restitution or reimbursement or has paid actual damages to the consumers who have been injured by the violation.
(b) The department may, as an alternative to the civil penalties provided in paragraph (a), impose an administrative fine in the Class I category pursuant to s. 570.971 for each act or omission that constitutes a violation of this section. An administrative proceeding that could result in the entry of an order imposing an administrative penalty must be conducted pursuant to chapter 120.
(10)(a) In any civil litigation resulting from a transaction involving a violation of this section, the prevailing party, after judgment in the trial court and exhaustion of all appeals, if any, shall receive his or her reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the nonprevailing party.
(b) The attorney for the prevailing party shall submit a sworn affidavit of his or her time spent on the case and his or her costs incurred for all the motions, hearings, and appeals to the trial judge who presided over the civil case.
(c) The trial judge shall award the prevailing party the sum of reasonable costs incurred in the action plus a reasonable legal fee for the hours actually spent on the case as sworn to in an affidavit.
(d) Any award of attorney’s fees or costs shall become a part of the judgment and subject to execution as the law allows.
(e) In any civil litigation initiated by the department or the Department of Legal Affairs, the court may award to the prevailing party reasonable attorney’s fees and costs if the court finds that there was a complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact raised by the losing party or if the court finds bad faith on the part of the losing party.
(11) Telecommunications companies shall inform their customers of the provisions of this section. The notification may be made by:
(a) Annual inserts in the billing statements mailed to customers; and
(b) Conspicuous publication of the notice in the consumer information pages of the local telephone directories.
(12) The department may adopt rules to implement this section.
History.s. 1, ch. 87-253; s. 1, ch. 90-143; ss. 3, 5, ch. 91-237; s. 1, ch. 92-186; s. 59, ch. 92-291; s. 3, ch. 94-298; s. 616, ch. 97-103; s. 4, ch. 2003-179; s. 4, ch. 2006-165; s. 20, ch. 2012-67; s. 16, ch. 2013-251; s. 1, ch. 2014-75; s. 7, ch. 2014-147; s. 41, ch. 2014-150; s. 26, ch. 2017-85.