Storms push travel plans to top of complaint list
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 11:24 p.m.
Consumer complaints about travel and vacation plans ranked No. 1 in Florida in 2004, largely because of the four hurricanes that hit the state, according to a report released at the end of the year by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Top 10 complaints
1. Travel and vacation plans - 4,312
2. Telemarketing - (involving Do Not Call list) 3,673
3. Price gouging - 3,023
4. Motor vehicle repair - 2,212
5. Credit/banking - 1,019
6. Communications -1,010
7. Business opportunities/franchises - 977
8. Health studios - 684
9. Telemarketers (not involving Do Not Call list) - 672
10. Construction - 631
Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
"Travel and vacation complaints haven't been No. 1 since I don't know when, but the increase in 2004 is related to the hurricanes," said agency spokeswoman Liz Compton. "People were angry because they couldn't get their trip, or it wasn't canceled to their satisfaction."
Also, some travel companies that had been having a hard time since the 9/11 tragedies were put out of business by the hurricanes, creating problems for their customers, according to Compton.
In 2003, complaints about violations of Florida's Do No Call list filled the top slot at 6,752, while travel and vacation plans ranked second at 4,024.
In 2004, the agency received 4,312 complaints involving travel and vacation plans, and 3,673 telemarketing complaints about violations of the Do Not Call list.
Price-gouging, which didn't even make the agency's Top 10 list in 2003, ranked third on the 2004 list. This increase has been attributed to the state of emergency declarations during Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne last year.
Rounding out the 2004 Top 10 list are motor vehicle repair (4), credit/banking (5), communications (6), business opportunities/franchises (7), health studios (8), telemarketers (9 - not involving the Do Not Call list), and construction (10).
The agency also reported that while the total number of complaints declined in 2004, 23,718 compared with 31,274 in 2003, the amount of money and services it recovered for consumers last year totaled $2,784,919, about a half-million dollars more than in 2003.
The department's Division of Consumer Services is the consumer complaints clearinghouse for the state, and regulates about a dozen industries in Florida.
The division also offers mediation for consumers involving industries it does not regulate.
"We hope the word is getting out to businesses that we will investigate if we get complaints," Compton said.
The agency's toll-free hot line for consumer complaints and inquiries is (800) 435-7352.
Doris Chandler can be reached at (352) 374-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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