Before you send your dispute to Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs, please read the following helpful information:
If you have a consumer Inquiry or Dispute - It is frustrating to pay for a product or service only to discover it doesn't match the promises or expectations. When that happens, you expect to have the problem resolved or your money returned.
First, Contact the Business - Take your problem to the salesperson, manager, landlord or the company's customer service representative. Most problems are resolved at this level. If you are still not satisfied, contact the owner or the company's headquarters.
When to send a dispute form to Consumer Affairs - If the business or landlord will not resolve your problem directly, you can file a dispute with the Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs Division. Dispute forms can be requested in person, by U.S. Mail, by telephone or printed/processed through this website. Once the form is completed with copies of documents attached, your dispute form can be submitted in person, by fax or by U.S. Mail.
Who may send a dispute -- The Consumer Affairs Division is an agency of the Palm Beach County, Florida, Board of County Commissioners. Consumer disputes may be submitted by citizens against any business or landlord operating in Palm Beach County -- where the citizen believes s/he has been unfairly, deceptively or illegally treated. Palm Beach County is composed of 38 municipalities. Some of the major cities include: West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington, Riviera Beach and Jupiter.
If you send a dispute to our office, Consumer Affairs reserves the right to forward your case to other government (local, state or federal) agencies which may have direct regulating responsibility over the business/industry for which you are submitting a dispute/inquiry. Part of the Division's responsibility is to act as a coordinating agency.
By law, the Consumer Affairs Division cannot require a business to resolve your dispute. Our goal with mediation is to encourage informal solutions to consumer disputes. To that end, we will make the business aware of your dispute and attempt to mediate a solution whenever possible. We offer this process as a public service, and we must rely on the voluntary cooperation of both the business and the consumer to resolve disputes. We strive to keep disputing parties from the costly and time consuming experience of going to court.
We cannot act as your private attorney. Our investigators are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice or opinions. If you feel you need legal advice, you will need to consult with a private attorney, legal aid society or other organization.
In certain instances Consumer Affairs may bring legal action against a business that has violated specific sections of the ordinances administered by Consumer Affairs. Some of these enforcement actions include but are not limited to issuing civil citations resolved in county court or "cease and desist" orders reviewed by a Hearing Board or Special Master.
How Our Mediation Process Works
After we process your written dispute and determine how it will be handled, we will send a letter to the business asking for a response to your allegations. You will receive a copy of our initial correspondence to the business and copies of any written responses.
We will contact you directly if additional information is needed. If you need to provide additional information, please do so in writing.
If your case is referred to another agency, we will advise you of that referral. In any event, we will keep your case file so that we can monitor the dispute history of a business and provide that information to other consumers who inquire.
Company Moved or Out of Business
Perhaps the most frustrating consumer complaint is one against a company that is out of business or has moved without leaving a forwarding address. Those cases are almost always impossible to resolve. Even agencies that assist consumers may not have the resources to find these companies.
In some rare instances, consumers may recover some of their money if the company has filed bankruptcy. To have any chance, you must file a "proof of claim". Bankruptcy cases can be very complex, so you may want to hire an attorney to help you - especially if your claim is large.
You always have the option of going to a Small Claims Court in Palm Beach County. The Small Claims Court handles civil disputes that are less than $5,000. For more information call (561) 355-2500.
If You Need an Attorney
You may want to hire your own attorney if our mediation cannot resolve your dispute or your case involves large sums of money.
If you do not have an attorney and think you will need one, contact the Palm Beach County Bar Association (561) 687-3266 (West Palm Beach area) or (561) 451-3256 (Boca/Delray).
Legal Aid Society
Some legal aid is available to aggrieved consumers who are disadvantaged, disabled or elderly and cannot afford to pay. If you fall into this category, you should call the Legal Aid Society (561) 655-8944.