Bill Feeley, president of the International Hurricane Protection Association (IHPA), announced the formation of the Consumer Safety Task Force for Hurricane Protection Products, intended to act in unison with the Florida Attorney General’s office to protect consumers from unscrupulous hurricane profiteers.
Feeley said his group has been made aware of a continued increase in advertising and marketing misleading consumers into buying products that do not meet the Florida Building Code requirements for hurricane protection.
“The difference in choosing approved or non-approved Hurricane protection systems can dramatically affect the survival of a home and its contents and in some cases can be a life or death decision. This type of deceptive trade practice needs to stop and the companies profiting from this should be held accountable,” he said.
Holding up a newspaper advertisement from a Sarasota company advertising “Hurricane Window Film,” Feeley said, “This is incredibly dangerous. A consumer sees this in their newspaper and believes that it must be legitimate. Unfortunately, consumers are purchasing these products in good faith thinking they are protecting their homes and families.”
He estimated that window film sales run in the tens of millions of dollars.
The International Window Film Association (IWFA), a window film industry trade association, distanced its members from such ads. “Statements such as ‘hurricane proof’ or ‘meets Dade County standards’ are, at best, misleading to the public or, at worst, fraudulent,” the group says on its Web site.
Feeley said hurricane window film advertising schemes are not the only unapproved hurricane protection products being advertised this way.
The IHPA lists several simple guidelines that consumers can follow to better protect themselves before entering into a contract:
Does the product have an approval number issued by the Florida Building Commission or the Miami-Dade Building Code Compliance Office?
Is the contractor licensed and able to pull a permit for the installation of the product? Currently, most jurisdictions require a building permit be issued for the installation of impact resistant coverings or impact resistant glazing (glass). After March 1, 2009, building permits and inspections will be required for the installation of required impact resistant coverings.
Does an insurance carrier accept the product as hurricane protection? According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Form OIR B1-1802) and Citizens Insurance Co. (Form WBDR 1802-01-09); after-market installed window films are rated the same as having no protection at all (None). Systems that do not meet the FBC or Miami-Dade Approvals are also rated as “None.”
“Unfortunately, many consumers are not aware they have been deceived until they contact their insurance company for a discount or, have a qualified inspection and receive the form that is required to apply for windstorm credits or meet new renewal requirements from Citizens,” Feeley said.
The state attorney general has a fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226. Consumers may also file complaints on Web site at http://www.myfloridalegal.com/ or call 1-877-693-5236.
Source: International Hurricane Protection Association
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