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William Large

Large | FJRI

Lawmakers approve reform of the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act

By Juliette Fairley - May 15, 2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign an amendment to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act that aims to end lawsuits against business owners who legitimately market to their existing clients.

“The FTSA, as currently enacted, is being used by a cottage industry of plaintiffs firms and professional plaintiffs who seek to end run businesses’ legitimate signup procedures, and capitalize on enormous class action exposure,” said Alexis Buese, co-chair of the Gunster Class Action Defense Group. 

As reported by the National Law Review, the FTSA currently bans all automated telemarketing sales phone calls and text messages unless consumers provide consent in writing.

 “Unfortunately, the plaintiff's bar took advantage of that, and they began to bring lawsuits where people had agreed to receive a text message about product A from a company, and the company sent a text message about product B,” said William W. Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a lobbying organization in Tallahassee.

Currently, consumers can recover $500 per violative automated telemarketing call or text they receive that they did not authorize as well as reasonable attorney fees and $1,500 in treble damages for willful or knowing violations. 

"They'd get the statutory fine for themselves, but in discovery, they'd find out who also received the text message and it's unlikely that only one text message went out," Large told the Florida Record. "It's likely that 10,000 messages went out and so they put everybody in class action then multiply the fine times all the class participants. So, it became very expensive."

 Although opponents have warned that, if enacted, the legislation could cause the telemarketing industry to overwhelm Floridians with unrequested calls, Large argues that there are safe harbor protections.

“If you hit stop with a text message and they still come in, those telemarketers will be addressed by the safe harbor provisions in the bill,” Large added.

The FTSA amendment, If signed into law by DeSantis, will narrow private causes of action, limit applicable violations to unsolicited calls, and allow a safe harbor of 15 days for businesses to stop contacting consumers.

 "True spam, which is what we should be stopping, is where an illegitimate business is contacting somebody who has no business relationship with that consumer," Buese told the Florida Senate Committee on Rules on April 24. "None of the true spammers are being sued because when you get a text message from a spammer, it doesn't include their contact information. When you get a text message from a business you signed up to get a text message from, it includes their contact information. The amendment strikes the right balance. It punishes the true unsolicited text messages and calls while stopping the abuse of litigation tactics against Florida's businesses."