Could lawmakers force much-needed transparency on pirates? – Florida Politics (blog)
Nobody likes to get scammed out of thousands of dollars, but that’s unfortunately what happens on Florida’s waters, according to Rep. Shawn Harrison.
That’s why he is sponsoring the Salvage of Pleasure Vessels Act, HB 469, which passed its final committee stop in the House yesterday, clearing the Government Accountability Committee easily with a 21-2 vote. Harrison’s legislation would help shut down a predatory and scammy practice where some maritime salvage and towing companies will provide assistance on the water to recreational boaters without disclosing the potential costs beforehand.
That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the costs of these services – which sometimes take only minutes – can range wildly from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, and most boaters have no clue what they’re getting themselves into. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Dana Young, has called the practice “modern-day piracy” and many of the large commercial salvage companies have staunchly opposed the added consumer protections.
“This bill requires transparency and notification,” said Harrison. “Apparently in the salvage industry, transparency, notification, and an informed consumer, are not a welcome commodity.”
In the Tampa Bay area alone, there are more than 120,000 registered boats, so this is clearly a big issue for consumers in the region where both bill sponsors call home. Some of the stories that have come to light since this legislation was filed have been downright shocking.
One member of Tampa’s Freedom Boat Club said it was “pure extortion” when they were charged more than $3,000 for a salvage job to get pulled off a beach, even though the boat was not even damaged.
Another boater – who spoke to the committee on Tuesday – was charged $30,000 for less than 10