Gov. Brown Nips Absentee Florists in the Bud
It will be harder for florists to misrepresent the location of their business under legislation signed September 27 by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Four previous bills in 13 years had attempted to prevent call centers, potentially located hundreds or thousands of miles away, from using a local city or neighborhood in their name and duping consumers into believing they are patronizing a “local” florist.
Brown signed AB 1581 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, a Fremont Democrat.
“Local consumers are misled when orders are routed to non-local businesses because fees and commissions are usually taken out of the order’s price,” Wieckowski said in a statement after the bill was sent to Brown last month by Legislature.
Under Wieckowski’s bill, florists using a local phone number or a local name must include their address – in print, electronic and Internet advertising.
Like past bills with the same goal, Wieckowski’s effort was supported by the California State Floral Association.
Twenty-eight other states have similar truth-in-floral-advertising laws including Arizona, Washington and New Jersey. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation last year to require such location disclosure.
A website created by local florists, Florist Detective, offers tips on how to avoid inadvertently buying from floral telemarketers. Among the suggestions: Check the address and Google the listed phone number.
In arguing for a previous measure in 2010, the floral association used this example:
A buyer orders a $50 floral arrangement. The call center rakes off $21 and $29 goes to the local florist who actually delivers the flowers. Sales tax is levied only on the in-state florist’s end of the transaction, a 42 percent reduction in sales tax.
Wieckowski’s bill also says florists cannot use the words “local” or “locally owned” or claim to be located in California unless actually located in California.
Nor could a florist use a fictitious business name “that would lead a reasonable consumer to conclude that the floral business is physically located in this state.”
Combating “absentee florists” has been a more than a decade long battle. In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission issued a “Consumer Alert” called Petal Pushers: Is Your ‘Local’ Florist Really Long-Distance?
Among other things, the “alert” said:
“Some unscrupulous telemarketing firms are posing as local florists, charging you higher fees and taking business away from legitimate florists in your town.”
Legislation like Wieckowski’s has been introduced in Sacramento since 1999 – all were vetoed by both Democratic and Republican governors.
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