Does Florida Needs Two Consumer Hotlines?

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Florida has two consumer hotlines, one at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and one at the attorney general’s office.

Lawmakers heard testimony this week that the two hotlines sometimes handle the same calls. Legislators want to know if the dueling hotlines are a waste of money.

So you think you’ve been ripped off. Who ya gonna call? Ag Department spokesman Terry McElroy says start with the original 1-800-HELP-FLA.

“I would recommend our hotline because our hotline can handle anything.”

But a quick walk down the Capitol hallway brings you to the attorney general’s office, which also runs a consumer hotline. Sounds like duplication of effort, but both offices say no.

Attorney General Charlie Crist’s hotline is intended to be more fraud-focused. But Ag Commissioner Charles Bronson himself admitted to a senate committee this week that sometimes the hotlines do juggle the same calls.

Bob Sparks with the attorney general’s office says still, state law requires the separate hotlines, and they both handle thousands of complaints.

“We work cooperatively. It’s a wonderful set-up between the two agencies and certainly, we don’t think it overlaps and it works well for the people of Florida”

The Legislature is reviewing whether having two hotlines makes financial sense. A report is due out this spring.

Last year the Agriculture Department’s Division of Consumer Services Hotline (1-800-HELP-FLA) logged nearly 300,000 calls. The Attorney General’s Hotline (1-866-9-NO-SCAM) got just over 78,000 calls.