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Protect Yourself: Firms Going out of Business
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When a business closes, there may be little warning, and it may be very difficult to retrieve merchandise or deposits left with the company. To protect yourself from being stuck when a business folds, consider the following:

TIPS FOR CONSUMERS

bulletResearch the Company.

Find out how long it has been in business and research its past successes and failures, especially if you are leaving an expensive item to be repaired or are making a hefty deposit. Call your local Better Business Bureau and government agencies like the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the County Consumer Affairs Bureau, the Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether any complaints or lawsuits are pending. For an out-of-state company, you may wish to call the appropriate agencies and authorities in the state where the company maintains its headquarters.

bulletAsk for References.

Find out if the company belongs to any trade associations, and ask the association whether the company is a member in good standing. Ask friends, co-workers and relatives if they are familiar with the company.

bulletLook Around Carefully.

Take a look around the shop before doing business. Note whether shelves or showrooms are fully stocked and ask yourself whether the business location looks temporary.

bulletStop by or Call Often.

If you have left merchandise or made a prepaid order or deposit, call or stop by regularly to inquiry about the status of your repair or order. If ordering a part and it is going to take longer than thirty days to receive, be skeptical. Be careful about leaving repaired items over thirty days.

bulletIf You Get Stuck.

If a business location has closed down, look for some sign or indication at the business's former address regarding how it can be contacted. For businesses with other locations, try calling another outlet or the headquarters to determine what action to take. If no other location exists and no indication as to where the business can be contacted is apparent, ask neighboring business owners or competitors if they know where the owner can be reached. You may also wish to contact the owner or manager of the building where the business was located about a possible forwarding address.

Source: Originally developed by the Florida Attorney General's Office

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