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Florida regulators investigate possible telemarketing violations of ‘Do Not Call’ law

Officials who enforce Florida’s “Do Not Call” telephone solicitation law say they have identified companies believed to be responsible for prerecorded calls blanketing the Treasure Coast and South Florida and have referred their case to state lawyers for possible civil fines and injunctions against further calls.

“There are four business entities that we believe are behind some or all of these calls,” said Terry McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Tallahassee. “All are involved in heating and cooling, to one extent or another.

“I can’t provide the names because we haven’t sued them yet,” he added.

McElroy said he thought the department’s attorneys would decide within one month whether to file lawsuits.

Such lawsuits typically seek a fine up to $10,000 for each unsolicited phone call the state can prove was made to a number on its no-call list, plus an injunction against future violations.

The telemarketing began this summer and has generated large numbers of complaints from people who are on both state and federal no-call lists. An automated message asks homeowners to press “1” if they want a company representative to visit and conduct a free energy audit. McElroy said this typically leads to asking the homeowner to buy something to accomplish energy savings.

Pressing “2” purports to remove the person’s phone from the calling campaign.

“Pressing ‘2’ does no good,” said Barbara Kaufmann, of Stuart. Kaufmann said her home has been receiving the calls almost every day for at least a month.

Pressing “1” to make an appointment does not reveal the legal names of companies involved. The telemarketers have given out several different names, none of them corporations registered with the state.

McElroy said the state issued subpoenas to telephone service providers and learned the names of four suspect companies.

Tom Sinotte, of Stuart, said he got so disgusted with repeated calls that he made a home appointment in early October just to face a real person and ask them the company for which they worked.

“They never showed up,” said Sinotte, adding that he suspects it was because a story about the state investigation that included his name appeared in Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers that same day.

“We never got another phone call after that, either,” Sinotte said.

Florida Power & Light Co. officials became concerned after hearing that the messages incorrectly imply that the utility has some connection with the campaign.

“We do want customers to know that they’re not affiliated with us and that we offer [energy audit] services for free,” FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson said. “We do not cold-call customers directly to offer those services.”

Instead, customers make appointments by visiting fplconnect.com.

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