Group Has Ads for 'Hurricane Film' in Its Sights
"This is incredibly dangerous," says Bill Feeley, president
of the International Hurricane Protection Association (IHPA). Feeley is
holding up a newspaper advertisement placed by a Sarasota-based company
advertising "Hurricane Window Film." In Florida, using the words
"hurricane" and "window film" in the same sentence
is risky business. The window film industry has yet to add its name to
the list of impact resistant product providers approved by the Florida
Building Commission or the Miami-Dade Building Code Compliance Office.
This does not mean that window film manufacturers and dealers cannot advertise,
sell and otherwise install impact resistant films in the state of Florida;
but, it does mean that they need to be careful how they promote and sell
these products in the process. Officials for the IHPA allege that some
window film providers have taken advantage of the public by placing ads
that imply or label their products as approved hurricane protection devices.
The IHPA is a non-profit organization including more than 200 manufacturers,
suppliers, contractors and government agencies that provide hurricane
protection systems, information and education. A query of the association's
membership list for any company name including the word "film"
returns zero hits.
"A consumer sees this in their newspaper and believes that it must
be legitimate," Feeley says. "Unfortunately, consumers are purchasing
these products in good faith thinking they are protecting their homes
Well, those in the window film business know-they are adding protection.
When applied to glass, impact-resistant films and attachment systems are
designed to resist impact from flying debris, smash and grab attempts,
or anything else that may threaten the building envelope. A number of
window film manufacturers offer these products and have gone to great
lengths in order to have them tested and even rated, but none to date
has crossed the finish line and had them Miami-Dade or FBC approved. And,
until they do, the IHPA intends to keep them honest. A Consumer Safety
Task Force for Hurricane Protection Products was formed recently for this
purpose. The unit will act in unison with the Florida Attorney General's
office to protect consumers who have been and are being subjected to "deceptive
or misleading trade practices by unscrupulous hurricane profiteers."
And window film dealers are atop the list.
"The IHPA and the Attorney General of Florida have been made aware
of a continued increase in advertising and marketing misleading consumers
into buying products that do not meet the Florida Building Code (FBC)
requirements for hurricane protection," Feeley explains. "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
Feeley says Florida is an attractive target for deceptive schemes due
to its high exposure to hurricanes, combined with a large retired population
and a constant influx of new residents who serve as fresh targets. IHPA
officials estimate that selling window film as "hurricane protection"
to consumers in the state of Florida has generated "tens of millions
of dollars" in business. Feeley points out a statement on the International
Window Film Association's (IWFA) website that addresses the practice:
"Statements such as 'hurricane proof' or 'meets Dade County standards'
are, at best, misleading to the public or, at worst, fraudulent."
Feeley says that consumers are often surprised when they contact their
insurance companies to inform them that they have added window film as
a hurricane protection device to their homes and discover that the product
of their choice provides no discount to insurance premiums. "Unfortunately,
many consumers are not aware that 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," he says. Citizens is
an insurance provider. According to the company's form WBDR 1802-01-09,
after-market installed window films are rated the same as having no protection
at all-as in "none." Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
form OIR B1-1802 concurs, and systems that do not meet the FBC or Miami-Dade
approvals are rated the same.
Along with urging consumers to contact the association or the Florida
attorney general's office in the event that they feel they've been mislead,
the IHPA lists several guidelines that consumers can follow to protect
themselves from misleading information. Suggestions include: looking for
an approval number issued by the FBC or the Miami-Dade Building Code Compliance
Office and determining whether the installation contractor is licensed
and able to establish 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. After March
1, 2009, building permits and inspections will be required for the installation
of required impact-resistant coverings. Until window film is relabeled
by insurance companies and removed from the "none" category,
and recognized as a hurricane protection device by the Florida and Miami-Dade
building codes, window film dealers will not pass those suggested criteria.