Occupational Licensing

Florida Cracks Down on Unlicensed Telemarketers


Via the Bradenton Herald, more from the annals of occupational licensing run amok:

A Bradenton business owner was arrested Wednesday and charged with using unlicensed telephone salespersons.

Joseph Nicholas Harris, 44, of Bradenton, was charged with employing two telephone salespeople at his business who were not licensed by the state, a third-degree felony, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The inspection targeted Harris' company, Tropic Air Conditioning, 1342 Whitfield Ave. in Manatee County.

In Florida, third degree felonies—such as battery of a police officer, burglary of an unoccupied structure, or cocaine possession—can result in up to five years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Last year, officials cited 12 businesses and 170 telemarketers.

The Florida Telemarketing Act requires businesses that solicit sales over the phone to pay an annual fee of $1,500 and an additional $50 for each telemarketer. If salespeople use a script, it must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for approval beforehand. The Department's Division of Consumer Services site lists 4,799 currently licensed salespeople.

The law contains 28 paragraphs of exemptions, for selling newspapers, certain financial services, food (less than $500) or for religious, charitable or political purposes. However, exempted telemarketers must still register with the state and keep the Department's acknowledgement of exemption on hand for inspection.  

In May 2011, Republican senators shot down a bill that would have eliminated licensing requirements for telemarketers. H.B. 5005 would also have deregulated:

  • interior designers,
  • movers,
  • yacht & ship brokers,
  • auctioneers, talent agencies,
  • athlete agents,
  • persons practicing hair braiding, hair wrapping, or body wrapping,
  • professional fundraisers,
  • water vending operators,
  • health studios,
  • ballroom dance studios,
  • certain outdoor theaters,
  • motor vehicle repair shops,
  • and travel agents.

Florida also licenses martial artists (as well trainers, announcers, seconds, and timekeepers), barbers, cosmetologists, farm laborers, home improvement contractors, landscape architects, funeral attendants, massage therapists, makeup artists, and manicurists.

According to a study by the Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit law firm based in Arlington, Virginia, Florida's licensing laws are the 4th most burdensome and the 7th most extensive for low- and moderate-income occupations nationwide. 

See Reason coverage of occupational licensing regulations for artists, movers, hair braiders, home improvement contractors, and interior designers.

Disclosure: I am a former Institute for Justice employee and contributed to the study cited.

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  1. I’m an unlicensed commenter in Florida. Mea culpa.

    1. Anything you post may be used against you.

  2. Can’t have people engaging in economic activity without permission from the state!

    That might get us out of this damned recession!

  3. Everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State!

  4. First they came for the telemarketers, but I said nothing because I hate getting calls during the sacrosanct dinner hour.

  5. Licensing telemarketers?

    I don’t suppose that would include anything like a mandatory course in ‘ethics’ would it?

    My brother and I just had to take my 94 year old mother’s credit card away because of those slimeballs.

    1. There are plenty of professions on that list that attract scum and villainy. Talent and sports agents, fundraisers, car mechanics, etc all screw people out of money as a matter of course.

      Licensing requirements are a pretty clear indicator that the state doesn’t care about who gets screwed so long as they get their cut.

      1. Yeah, I agree.

        It’s just another one of those “I defend these peoples’ rights to do such and such even though I despise them” kind of things.

      2. In the ‘talent’ business, there is more to screwing than just money. The recession is a great time to be an agent in that business.

    2. Like most licensing laws, I’m sure this had it’s origin in “protecting consumers”.

      Unlike most licensing laws, I don’t think consumers are going to be irked by additional costs imposed on telemarketers. This is more like the typical “if we can’t ban them, at least make their life difficult” approach.

  6. Did Tony give you permission to use his photo for this article?

  7. farm laborers

    1. SHit I saw that too. It’s hard enough to find people who will shovel stalls, in Florida you need a license. Gah.

    2. I think it might actually be farm labor contractors, who are people who organize farm labor gangs.

    3. Yeah that shit is rediculous. I grew up in a farming community, and I knew a bunch of 15-17 year olds that would work for about 2 months out of the year driving grain trucks for the harvest or some such shit. They can’t be bothered to get liscenced just for 2 months of work.

  8. unlicensed telephone salespersons …. a third-degree felony

    holy fuck..

  9. auctioneers, talent agencies,

    Ah ha! I’ll except sloopy’s apology whenever he’s ready.

  10. Just imagine the chaos that will ensue if the government does not hold telemarketers and interior designers to the strictest standards. We’ll be well on our way to becoming Somalia. Somalia, I tell you!

  11. That licensing requirement probably explains why the dealership doesn’t pester me about buying a new car just after I get my car serviced. Or the fact that I stomped on the poor guys spiel.

  12. I’m disappointed that being a licensed telemarketer isn’t a third-degree felony.

    1. That would be great. As soon as they finish the paperwork and hand over the check, slap them in leg irons.

  13. I used to think that telemarketers were the scum of the earth. Then I learned that there is someone who is paid by me that gives them licenses to practice their scummery. And then, I stared into the face of evil itself.

  14. can result in up to five years in jail or a $5,000 fine

    Does this sound fucked up or what? Five years in jail is way worse, and way more expensive then a 5k fine.

    Anyway, is that 5k per employer or per employee?

  15. In May 2011, Republican senators shot down a bill that would have eliminated licensing requirements….

    That must be some of that “law and order libertarianism” I’ve been hearing about lately. We must turn back the tide of deregulation!

  16. Telemarketers? Because, what, unlicensed ones might accidentally use a bad word, or take no as an answer?

    My husband and I once considered relocating to Fort Lauderdale; he’s a carpet installer, and knew from an earlier stint in West Palm Beach that new construction in South Florida made it a lucrative area for him. While visiting , however, we learned that in the intervening years Florida had instituted state licensing for carpet installers, which included a written test and $600 fee.

    My husband is opposed to licensing on principle, and believes his million dollar liability policy trumps any state mandate as a guarantee of quality work. Beyond that, he’s tops in his field locally, a whiz with numbers and with using measurement of a room’s dimensions combined with visual observation to make a complete, detailed mental diagram to work from. What he can’t do is take a written test. Learning disabilities, including dyslexia, ignored by the public schools that graduated him in spite of being just barely functionally literate, cause him enough justified anxiety that a written test could be an insurmountable obstacle to working in Florida, doing something he has done for 25 years, an occupation whose necessary skills do not include any reading ability beyond the most rudimentary. I can’t help wondering how many others are barred from their chosen fields by completely irrelevant licensing requirements.

    1. Publish his story somewhere. Only by showing the downside of licensing bureaucracies will we be able to overthrow them.

  17. Telemarketers are using govt-granted monopoly phone lines as their place of business, so they open themselves up to regulation IMHO. Just like 900/976 number content. This doesn’t apply to businesses that just use the phone to complement their main business.

  18. Telemarketing is trespass. States should ban it entirely, not license it.

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