(1) This section and s. 681.1097 shall apply to disputes determined eligible under this chapter involving recreational vehicles acquired on or after October 1, 1997.
(2) Each manufacturer of a recreational vehicle involved in a dispute that is determined eligible under this chapter, including chassis and component manufacturers that separately warrant the chassis and components and that otherwise meet the definition of manufacturer set forth in s. 681.102(13), shall participate in a mediation and arbitration program that is deemed qualified by the department.
(3) In order to be deemed qualified by the department, the mediation and arbitration program must, at a minimum, meet the following requirements:
(a) The program must be administered by an administrator and staff that are sufficiently insulated from the manufacturer to ensure impartial mediation and arbitration services and to ensure that a manufacturer does not make decisions as to whether a consumer’s dispute proceeds to mediation or arbitration.
(b) Program administration fees must be timely paid by the manufacturer, and no such fees shall be charged to a consumer.
(c) The program must be competently and adequately funded and staffed at a level sufficient to ensure the provision of fair and expeditious dispute resolution services.
(d) Program mediators and arbitrators must be sufficiently insulated from a manufacturer to ensure the provision of impartial mediation and arbitration of disputes.
(e) Program mediators and arbitrators shall not be employed by a manufacturer or a motor vehicle dealer.
(f) Program mediators must complete a Florida Supreme Court certified circuit or county mediation training program or other mediation training program approved by the department.
(g) Program mediators must comply with the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators issued by the American Arbitration Association, the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association, and the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution.
(h) Program arbitrators must complete a Florida Supreme Court certified circuit or county arbitration program or other arbitration training program approved by the department.
(i) Program arbitrators must comply with the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes published by the American Arbitration Association and the American Bar Association in 1977 and as amended.
(j) The program must ensure that the mediators and arbitrators are sufficiently trained in the program rules and procedures and in the provisions of this chapter at least every other year and as a precondition to serving in the program. The program shall monitor the performance of the mediators and arbitrators to ensure that they are performing competently and impartially and are complying with all program rules and procedures and the provisions of this chapter.
(k) The program must complete all mediation and arbitration of an eligible consumer claim within 70 days of the program administrator’s receipt of the claim from a consumer. Failure of the program to complete all proceedings within the prescribed period will not invalidate any settlement agreement or arbitration decision. The program shall gather all documents from the parties to a dispute that are necessary to a full consideration of the dispute, including, but not limited to, a statement of the respective complaints, positions, and desired resolution by the consumer and each manufacturer. Copies of documents submitted to the program shall be provided to all parties involved in the dispute, the assigned mediator, and the assigned arbitrator.
(l) Mediation conferences and arbitration proceedings must be held at reasonably convenient locations within the state so as to enable a consumer to attend and present a dispute orally.
(4) The department shall monitor the program for compliance with this chapter. If the program is determined not qualified or if qualification is revoked, then disputes shall be subject to the provisions of ss. 681.109 and 681.1095. If the program is determined not qualified or if qualification is revoked as to a manufacturer, all those manufacturers potentially involved in the eligible consumer dispute shall be required to submit to arbitration conducted by the board if such arbitration is requested by a consumer and the dispute is deemed eligible for arbitration by the department pursuant to s. 681.109. A consumer having a dispute involving one or more manufacturers for which the program has been determined not qualified, or for which qualification has been revoked, is not required to submit the dispute to the program irrespective of whether the program may be qualified as to some of the manufacturers potentially involved in the dispute.
(5) A program failing to meet the requirements of this section, s. 681.1097, and the rules adopted thereunder by the department may not be qualified by the department. The department may revoke the qualification of a program for failure to maintain compliance with the requirements of this section, s. 681.1097, and the rules adopted thereunder by the department. The department may revoke the qualification of a program as to one or more participating manufacturers for conduct to be specified by the department by rule pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54.
(6) If a program is determined not qualified or if qualification is revoked, or if program qualification is revoked as to a particular manufacturer, the program administrator and the involved manufacturer, if any, shall be notified by the department of any deficiencies in the program or, in the case of a manufacturer, notified of the manufacturer’s conduct in violation of this chapter or the rules adopted thereunder by the department, shall be given an opportunity to correct such deficiencies, except as set forth by the department by rule, and shall be informed that it is entitled to a hearing pursuant to chapter 120.
(7) The program administrator, mediators, and arbitrators are exempt from civil liability arising from any act or omission in connection with any mediation or arbitration conducted under this chapter.
(8) The program administrator shall maintain records of each dispute submitted to the program, including the recordings of arbitration hearings. Such records shall be maintained in a manner separate from other unrelated records of the program. All records maintained by the program under this chapter shall be public records and shall be available for inspection by the department upon reasonable notice. The program shall retain all records for each dispute for at least 5 years after the final disposition of the dispute. The program shall furnish the department with copies of all settlement agreements and decisions within 30 days after the date of such settlements and decisions.
(9) The program shall provide the department with quarterly and annual reports containing such information as the department shall by rule prescribe.
(10) The department shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to implement the provisions of this section.