Power giant FPL may be unfairly taking business away from small company owners

Small business owners say FPL is unfairly cutting in on contracting business

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Some are saying Florida Power and Light has crossed the line, and the public really doesn't know who they are doing business with.

A group of small business owners have now banned together, claiming they can't compete with what the power giant, which is a monopoly, is doing.

Some even say the situation could put them out of business.

FPL is regulated by the Public Service Commission.

In 2018, the PSC concluded FPL and FPL Home Services operate independently and that FPL Home Services would not have a competitive advantage over an independent contractor.

Gregg D’Attile, who has been in the business for 36 years and currently has 75 employees, is beyond concerned.

"It's not fair, it's just not right," he said. "How terrible would that be if we had to go out of business because we had to compete with something we can't compete with?"

D'Attile is the CEO of Art Plumbing and Air in Sunrise.

"FPL has decided to get in the same business that I am in," he said.

He's talking about flyers that have shown up in mailboxes across South Florida offering $50 off air conditioning or plumbing repair, $500 off a new air conditioning unit, and more.

The mailers seem to be from FPL, the regulated monopoly that provides us power, but at closer look they say FPL Home Services.

"They should not be using FPL at all," D'Attile said.

Nextera Energy, which owns FPL, has gotten into the private home services business, using the name FPL Home Services.

The company claims the home services they offer are totally separate entities from the power company.

"It says FPL Home Services," said D'Attile. "So they built a little house around the FPL logo, that doesn't make it different. Remove FPL Home Services. Call it XYZ Home Services."

Air conditioning, plumbing and electrical contractors have now banded together to take on the power giant.

They call themselves the MEP Coalition.

MEP stands for mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

Skip Farinhas is the owner of GMC Air in Pompano Beach and part of the coalition.

"We don’t have problems with competition," said Farinhas. "The problem with this is it is unfair competition. It’s not fair and not right."

"That logo, that’s what people gravitate to. 'Oh, it has to be fantastic, it’s by FPL.'"

FPL delivers electricity to approximately 5,000,000 customer accounts, nearly half of Florida, and is the third largest electric utility company in the United States.

The MEP Coalition alleges FPL Home Services has access to the power company's massive database for the mailers being sent out.

FPL Home Services share and use the regulated power company facilities, so there is less overhead.

"They are robo-calling our employees to try to hire our employees away from us," Farinhas said. "As a monopoly, the type of benefits they can offer are not able to be matched by a contractor."

Local 10 News reached out to FPL, more than once, for someone to answer very specific questions and clear up any misinformation that may be out there. They refused an on camera interview.

Instead, FPL spokesperson Debbie Larsson sent the following statement:

“FPL Home provides Florida consumers with smart, affordable and reliable home services, such as surge protection, smart home security, backup generators, air conditioning filter delivery service and appliance warranties. The company is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, as is Florida Power & Light, and both entities have separate operations, revenues and expenses. From time to time, FPL Home utilizes resources from other NextEra Energy family companies and compensates those entities for the use of such resources. In the case of a regulated entity like Florida Power & Light, expenditures are monitored and reviewed by the Florida Public Service Commission to ensure ratepayer-funded resources are not supporting non-regulated subsidiaries. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.”

State Senator José Javier Rodriguez represents District 37 in Miami-Dade County.

"Using their logo is a very obvious issue," Rodriguez said of FPL. "I absolutely agree that it is unfair competition."

Rodriguez says he and others are working on legislation to combat this issue.

"They have quite a bit of power," Rodriguez said. "One of the important impacts they have is being able to keep things off the agenda, so they aren't even debated. That is one of the biggest challenges we have."

Legislation takes time though, and business owners that Local 10 News spoke to say they don't know how long they can take this jolt from the power giant.

“If this continues, I think the future of many of us is bleak,” said Farinhas.

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.