FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 27, 2005
CONTACT: JoAnn Carrin (850) 245-0150
Attorney General Issues Consumer Alert
for Hurricane Katrina Victims
MIAMI - Attorney General Charlie Crist today
advised Floridians affected by Hurricane Katrina to use
extra caution when hiring workers to help clean up the
damage caused by the storm. In particular, the Attorney
General warned those who are victims of flooding to be
alert for contractors who offer water removal services
from homes and property.
With so many Floridians facing the prospect of
removing significant amounts of water from their
property, it is likely that legitimate contractors will
be mixed with those seeking to profit at the expense of
storm victims. Consumers face the risk that services
will be offered by those who are not licensed, that
clean-up services will be offered at unconscionable
prices, or that so-called “contractors” will accept down
payments but will not do the work at all.
“More than a million Floridians are without power and
many are victims of flooding,” said Crist.
“Understandably, those affected are anxious to put their
lives back together as soon as possible, but they need
to protect themselves from con artists. We will pursue
anyone who tries to prey on those who are suffering.”
The Attorney General provided a series of guidelines
for consumers to protect themselves from unscrupulous
water removal contractors – or any other repair
- Do not pay cash to home repair contractors or
tree removal services
- Require home repair contractors to obtain all
necessary government licenses and permits, rather
than leaving that burden on the consumer
- Make sure contractors have proper occupational
licenses as required by state law.
- Work only with reputable, established
businesses. Avoid "contractors" who knock on your
door offering to fix your roof or windows. Try to
obtain more than one estimate for the repair work.
- Before signing a contract, check the payment
terms and other provisions carefully. Don't pay a
contractor in advance.
Crist also advised residents to report suspected
cases of price gouging, which can carry stiff penalties
following a gubernatorial declaration of a state of
emergency. Criminal and civil investigators from the
Attorney General's Office have been mobilized statewide
for a crackdown on price gouging on items that are in
high demand following a hurricane such as food, water,
hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and generators.
In 2004, the Attorney General filed suit against a
south Florida renovator for gouging victims of flooding
originating from Hurricane Charley. That case is still
pending. During last year's record-setting hurricane
season, the Attorney General's Office received 8,911
complaints through its price gouging hotline. The office
initiated 58 formal investigations and filed 13 price
gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses,
tree removal companies and other businesses. To date the
Attorney General's Office has recovered more than
$700,000 in restitution for Florida consumers from
settlements and other resolutions. Other investigations
and settlement negotiations are ongoing, including two
subpoenas served to date as a result of alleged price
gouging from Hurricane Dennis.
Consumers may report price gouging by calling the
Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline toll-free at
1-866-9-NO-SCAM or 1-866-966-7226.
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