Florida governor considering bill that could lead to more robocalls

Jackie Russo is hearing voices, and she wishes they were in her imagination.

"The (calls) don't stop on Saturday. They don't stop on Sunday. They don't stop on Mother's Day," she said.

The Tallahassee resident has compiled a spreadsheet that shows that between May 3rd and May 13, she received 233 unsolicited calls, or about 21 a day. She believes they're from an insurance company that was given her phone number by someone trying to commit fraud.

"It's a very helpless feeling because I've never visited this website before and these people will not stop calling me," she explained.

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She is planning to file suit via Tampa consumer attorney Billy Howard, who said a bill headed to the governor's desk would allow businesses to call any customer who has previously visited them, even including signing up for a one-time quote.

Howard said the old Florida law requires written consent to receive calls from telemarketers and consumers can sue for $1,500 per call received.

"I do want to sue robocallers, and this is going to make it a lot tougher," said Howard. "The only people that want robocalls in Florida are robocallers."

But senators, who passed the bill 29-10, say the intention is to crack down on what the industry says are frivolous lawsuits. They say the new guidelines are more clear as to what constitutes a robocall, and who is allowed to be called.

"I was approached about the idea to say we are legitimate businesses, we are not trying to robocall people who don't have a business relationship with us," said State Sen. Clay Yarborough, (R-Jacksonville).

He said there's an 18-month expiration when there's no longer a legitimate connection between the consumer and the company.

Howard noted those hoping to file suit should know the new rules would apply even to those who were aggressively dialed before the governor signs it.

"My daughter thinks I should just turn it off and put on ‘Do Not Disturb,’" said Russo. "But then, of course, I'm not getting my phone calls – my work calls, my personal calls, and that type of thing."

There would be a 15-day grace period after a consumer asks a business to stop calling before they become liable.

The governor has 15 days to sign or veto the bill.