Florida bill proposes refunds for customers paying for inoperable services

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill hoping to solve an issue for many residents that had to pay for basic services after Hurricane Irma, even if the services weren’t operational.

Florida state Rep. Randy Fine (R – Palm Bay) said he received hundreds of complaints from constituents after Hurricane Irma, from people who said they were forced to pay for basic services that weren’t getting done, including garbage pick-up, telecommunications, internet and cable services.

Fine filed House Bill 971 on Monday to solve the problem, calling the legislation “No Pickup, No Pay; No Service, No Sale.”

“Today in the state of Florida, if your phone is out for two weeks, or your cable is out for two weeks, they can still charge you for the service even though you don’t get the product, and that’s simply not right,” Fine told WTSP.

Fine pointed out that, while electric companies cannot charge customers when their power is out, the same does not go for telecommunications.

“We learned during Irma that the cable and telecommunications companies often restored service far slower than the electric utilities. Why? Because electric utilities cannot bill for power they aren’t distributing, but cable and telecommunications can. That’s simply wrong,” Fine said in a statement. “If a consumer isn’t receiving cable or phone or internet service, they should not have to pay for it. Period.”

HB971 does allow for exceptions, noting garbage companies would have three days to pick up trash before having to refund money. For internet and cable, the bill says service has to be out for 24 hours straight before customers can get their money back.

“The goal is to get better service, not to get more refunds,” Fine said to WTSP.

If the bill passes and companies refuse to refund residents’ money, Fine said those companies will get fined 10 times the amount they should have returned.

The bill would take effect on July 1, 2018 if the Florida Legislature approves it and it’s signed into law.

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