Section 501.059, Florida Statutes 2003
501.059 Telephone solicitation.--
(1) As used in this section:
(a) "Telephonic sales call" means a call made by a telephone solicitor to a consumer, for the purpose of soliciting a sale of any consumer goods or services, or for the purpose of soliciting an extension of credit for consumer goods or services, or for the purpose of 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.
(b) "Consumer goods or services" means any real property or any tangible or intangible personal property which is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, including, without limitation, 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) "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, payment or performance of which has not been completed at the time of such call;
3. To any 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.
(d) "Commission" means the Florida Public Service Commission.
(e) "Telephone solicitor" means any 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.
(f) "Consumer" means an actual or prospective purchaser, lessee, or recipient of consumer goods or services.
(g) "Merchant" means a person who, directly or indirectly, offers or makes available to consumers any consumer goods or services.
(h) "Doing business in this state" refers to businesses who conduct telephonic sales calls from a location in Florida or from other states or nations to consumers located in Florida.
(i) "Department" means the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
(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) Any residential, mobile, or telephonic paging device telephone subscriber desiring to be placed on a "no sales solicitation calls" listing indicating that the subscriber does not wish to receive unsolicited telephonic sales calls may notify the department and be placed on that listing upon receipt by the department of a $10 initial listing charge. This listing shall be renewed by the department annually for each consumer upon receipt of a renewal notice and a $5 assessment.
(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.
(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) 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.
(6)(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.
(7)(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.
(8) The department shall investigate any complaints received concerning violations of this section. If, after investigating any 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 not exceed $10,000 per 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.
(9)(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.
(10) The commission shall by rule ensure that telecommunications companies 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.
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.