Florida Division of Consmer Services Provides “Savvy Consumer” Tips

January 26, 2012
By

The Florida Department of Agriculture an

 

Each new year brings the opportunity to look forward and consider implementing resolutions to improve some aspect of our lives. This year, consider making a resolution to be a more informed and savvy consumer. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides numerous resources to help consumers make informed decisions and avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Before you entrust anyone with your hard-earned money, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Check a company’s complaint history and learn how complaints were resolved before agreeing to do business with them by  the consumer website and using the Business/Complaint Lookup from or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352). In addition, if the business is regulated, be sure to find out if they are properly registered or licensed.

Know who you are dealing with by obtaining the physical address and phone number of the company. Don’t do business with anyone that won’t provide this information. Without an address or phone number, it may be difficult to track down a company if there is a problem with their product or service.

Know your rights as a consumer. Mail, telephone and door-to-door sales often have special regulations that businesses must follow. The Federal Trade Commission offers comprehensive guides that outline the rights and responsibilities for consumers and businesses, including information on how to resolve disputes. For more information visit the FTC website.    

Be wary of anyone requiring payment by a method that’s difficult to track, such as wire transfer, money order or by sending cash with an overnight courier. This is usually one of the first indications of a scam. Purchases made by credit card will usually allow the consumer the ability to dispute charges, thus offering the most protection.

Get details in writing (terms and conditions, cancellation policies, etc.) before signing any agreements, sending money or giving out any credit card or bank information. Be sure to read the fine print to avoid surprises in the event of a dispute.

Look for reviews online by typing the company’s name, followed by the word “review” or “complaints” into an Internet search engine. Be sure to check several websites. Some sites that appear to be consumer reviews might be paid advertisements.

Read advertisements carefully and be wary of ads that use a lot of fine print or disclaimers, offer vague product descriptions or offer brand name merchandise at unreasonably low prices for a limited time.

Take your time and resist the urge to act quickly no matter how good the offer is. It’s better to think things through than make an impulsive decision based on an emotional whim. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The Department is available to assist consumers who have resolved to make wiser purchasing decisions in the New Year. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who answer more than 218,000 calls and emails annually from consumers and businesses. Additionally, the Department’s online A-Z Resource Guide is a directory of agencies and other resources that consumers can utilize to find appropriate assistance on a wide variety of subjects. As always, an educated consumer is the best defense against fraud and deception!

For additional information, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at the consumer website or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within Florida, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español, or (850) 410-3800 from outside of Florida.

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