COMPLAINTS TO CONSUMER-PROTECTION AGENCIES
Below are some agencies that might offer help if you have been the victim of identity theft or an unfair or deceptive business practice. Some of these agencies provide the possibility of an informal resolution of your complaint, without the expense of hiring an attorney to take legal action. Even if your complaint is not resolved by one of these agencies, the record of your complaint might help to prevent similar harm to other consumers in the future. However, contacting these agencies may use up valuable time. You might benefit from legal advice before you contact these agencies or while you are waiting for a response from them. Every legal claim has a statute of limitations, which is the amount of time you have to file your claim in court. If that time runs out, you lose the right to pursue your claim in court. You should not let that time run out while you wait for these agencies or others to resolve your complaint. If you are approaching that time and need to take legal action, or if you would like legal advice, you should consult with the Law Office of Jeff Haynie, PLLC, or another attorney. Please see the important disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accepts consumer complaints against businesses that are operating unfairly or deceptively. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The FTC has also set up a website specifically for assisting victims of identity theft. That site provides a list of suggested steps to take in order to prevent criminals from doing any more damage and to begin repairing any damage that may have already been done.
Another organization helping victims of identity theft is the Identity Theft Resource Center.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) accepts consumer complaints against companies that provide financial services, such as banks, mortgage lenders or servicers, credit card companies, credit reporting agencies, etc. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulates the investment industry and investigates consumer complaints regarding a wide range of investment products. You may learn more and file a complaint here. In order for FINRA to investigate a complaint, the individual or company that sold the investment product must be registered with FINRA. If that is not the case, the SEC might be able to help.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also regulates the investment industry and accepts consumer complaints regarding securities fraud and other problems with investments. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) accepts consumer complaints against interstate moving companies. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Attorney General investigates consumer complaints and enforces some of Florida’s consumer-protection statutes. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Attorney General has set up a website specifically for assisting consumers with questions about Florida’s lemon law. Many people think of “lemon law” as all of the laws applying to car sales and/or car repairs generally, but Florida’s lemon law only applies to a new car that continues malfunctioning after the manufacturer has been given an opportunity to repair it. This law sets out a procedure for seeking either replacement of the new car or a refund of the purchase price. These remedies are available against the car manufacturer, not the dealer. Another helpful summary of Florida’s lemon law is provided by the Florida Bar.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation investigates consumer complaints against individuals and companies that are licensed by the state to carry on all kinds of businesses, ranging from auctioneers to barbers to contractors and more. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation accepts consumer complaints against mortgage brokers, lenders and others in the financial industry. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigates consumer complaints against car repair shops (mechanics), among other businesses. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles investigates consumer complaints against car dealers, among other businesses. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
The Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services accepts complaints about insurance companies and insurance agents. You may learn more and file a complaint here.
Some home-repair contractors in Florida are taking advantage of home owners using an "assignment of benefits." This is a provision in a contract giving the contractor, not the home owner, the right to control any claim made on the home owner's insurance policy and to collect any funds paid by the insurance company. Before you sign a contract for home repairs, you should learn more about this. The Florida Department of Financial Services has provided some helpful information here.
BEFORE BUYING A CAR
Whether it’s a new car or a used car, there are plenty of traps out there, so consumers should educate themselves before making a purchase.
Some helpful car-buying guides are provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and by Clark Howard, a consumer advocate who has guides for buying a new car and for buying a used car.
Extra caution should be exercised when buying a used car. This is partly because the law permits the dealer to disclaim all warranties, meaning the dealer may avoid all responsibility for the condition of the car after it is sold. If the contract for a used car clearly states the car is sold “as is,” with no warranty, then the buyer might not have any recourse if/when the car breaks down - even if it breaks down immediately after the sale. It is wise to have the car examined by an independent mechanic before the sale is completed.
The sale of a used car is an opportunity for several kinds of fraud. For example, a dealer might not disclose that a car was previously damaged in a wreck or a flood, or the odometer might have been tampered with to make the mileage look lower than it actually is. Before buying a used car, it is wise to check into the car's history. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is a good source of information. Consumers may obtain a report with NMVTIS information, showing prior transfers of title and prior odometer readings, among other things. You may learn more about the NMVTIS here, and order a report with NNVTIS information here.
There is no “cooling off” period, or right of rescission, for car sales. There are few exceptions to this rule, so car buyers should not expect to be able to cancel a sale after signing a contract.
As always, it is very important to read and understand any contract before signing it. You should not sign a contract to purchase a car if the terms are not completely filled in. Be sure to get a copy of any contract you sign.
* This website contains general information only. It is neither legal advice nor a substitute for legal advice. The laws summarized on this website and the links and other information provided here may change without notice. Please contact the Law Office of Jeff Haynie, PLLC to schedule an appointment if you are seeking legal advice or representation. However, please note that simply contacting this office will not create an attorney-client relationship. Only a signed engagement agreement will create an attorney-client relationship with the Law Office of Jeff Haynie, PLLC.
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