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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New Washington law targets misleading floral companies

OLYMPIA – A rose is rose is a rose, but an online florist isn’t local just because it has a local phone number on its website.

Under a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, florists could face a $250 fine for misrepresenting their locations in a way that makes customers think they are dealing with local businesses when they are really dealing with a national operation.

Call it the white chrysanthemum law – the flower used to represent truth. In legislative hearings, local florists said large national firms sometimes list a local phone number on their websites, leading customers to think they are ordering from a local company. The online company forwards information to a local company, keeping most of the money from the order. If something goes wrong, lawmakers were told, the customer may have little luck in getting a refund for poor service.

In 1999, the Legislature made it a violation of the Consumer Protection Act for national companies to misrepresent their location in a telephone directory by using a name or number that implies they are local.

Adding online advertising and websites to the law brings the law into the 21st century, supporters said.

But not in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday, which is one of the biggest days of the year for floral deliveries.

The law takes effect in July, like most bills approved in the legislative session.

So for sons and daughters looking to go local while brightening Mom’s day, caveat emptor still applies.