~ Lawsuit alleges the company deceptively led consumers to believe they
were ordering from local florists ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has sued a New Jersey corporation and its owner, alleging that the company created fictitious florist listings, 53 supposedly located in Florida, and named them so as to lead consumers to believe that the companies were located in Florida cities and towns. Florist in Miami, Inc., and company owner Thomas Meola face more than 150 violations of Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act for misleading Florida consumers though deceptive advertisements.
“Consumers are entitled to know with whom they are doing business, and companies who deliberately attempt to conceal their true identity or location have no business operating in our state,” said Attorney General McCollum.
Meola, of Randolph, New Jersey, placed telephone listings for the fictitious companies in various directories, encouraging consumers to believe they were conducting business with local florists. Each “local”
business had telephone numbers with local area codes, although the numbers were all automatically forwarded to Meola’s New Jersey company. At no time during transactions with Meola’s company were consumers informed that their calls had been forwarded from Florida to the New Jersey company. The misleading names included Florida’s Florist in Orlando, Florida’s Florist in Coral Springs and Florida’s Florist in Daytona Beach, among others.
In addition to the misleading company names and listings, consumers also complained they had been billed for flowers which were ordered but never delivered. Two Florida florists also complained to the Attorney General’s Office that they received complaints from consumers who had confused them with Meola’s similarly named companies and were blaming them for problems with their orders.
Meola and his company were investigated by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division, which will also litigate the lawsuit. The investigation has been ongoing since December 2005, focusing on violations of Florida Statutes which prohibit individuals from advertising a fictitious business name if the name and context of the advertisement leads consumers to believe the business is located somewhere other than its true location and if calls to the local telephone number are routinely transferred to a business location outside the state. Violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act carry penalties of $10,000 per violation.
Below is a list of the company names Meola has used to conduct business in Florida:
Florist in Oviedo, Florida’s Florist in Jacksonville TTP, Florida’s Florist in Brooksville TTP, Florida’s Florist in Coral Springs TTP, Florida’s Florist in Daytona Beach TTP, Florida’s Florist in Gainesville TTP, Florida’s Florist in Melbourne TTP, Florida’s Florist in Orange Park TTP, Florida’s Florist in West Palm TTP, Florida’s Florist in Palm Beach, Florida’s Florist in Panama City TTP, Florida’s Florist in Orlando TTP, Florida’s Florist in Boca Raton TTP, Florida’s Florist Cocoa Beach, Florida’s Florist Cooper City, Florida’s Florist Winter Springs, Florist in Hallandale, Florist in Sanford, Carol City Florist, Cutler Ridge Florist, Davie Florist, Deerfield Beach Florist, Ferry Pass Florist, Hallandale Florist, Hollywood Florist, Jupiter Florist, Lauderdale Lakes Florist, Miami Florist, Miami Beach Florist, Norland Florist, North Lauderdale Florist, North Miami Florist, Pensacola Florist, Pompano Beach Florist, Riviera Beach Florist, Florist in Bartow, Bartow Flowers, Florist in Bradenton, Florist in Clearwater, Florist in Dunedin, Florist in Lakeland, Florist in New Port Richey, Florist in Sarasota, Florist in Seminole, Florist in St. Petersburg, Florist in Carrollwood, Lealman Florist, Plant City Florist, Tampa Florist, Tarpon Springs Florist