Bob Rushing isn’t so sure that Florida attorney general Pam Bondi wasn’t on to something when she recently claimed companies encouraging consumers to install hurricane-resistant films as hurricane protection are running a scam.

hurricane_1-275x200“Hurricane-resistant and properly-fabricated glass is definitely more cost-effective,” says Rushing, an estimator for Florida-based Elite Glass Co. “Most of the people down here pretty much know that, but Florida is full of lots of retirees and old people. It was kind of an easy target for [dishonest glass representatives].”

In a recent statement, Bondi says, “As homeowners prepare for hurricane season, they should be cautious when purchasing window films that claim to safeguard their homes from hurricanes. The Florida Building Commission must give approval before a company can advertise its product as a form of hurricane protection, and they have not approved window films for this use.”

In the same statement from the attorney general, the office says, “In order for the Florida Building Commission to approve a product designed for a window, the product must be part of the complete window system and assembly, and window films do not meet that requirement. Anyone who advertises, sells, offers, provides, distributes, or markets a product as hurricane, windstorm, or impact protection from wind-borne debris without such approval is in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.”

At the end of statement, the attorney general urges consumers to report any businesses making “fraudulent” claims about window film and hurricane protection.

Just how “fraudulent” are the claims that window films can offer protection against hurricanes?

“I think it’s wrong and the law is short-changing the public because window film still provides a lot of protection in the event of a windstorm or broken window,” says Kevin Millard, president of Accent Distributing in Sarasota, Fla. “Not every customer can afford to buy a piece of steel to place in front of every single window. Sometimes they’re told they can’t put a piece of steel there because of condominium association—that’s very prevalent here in Florida—and homeowner’s association concerns who say we don’t want shutters on our windows. Now we’ve handcuffed those condominium owners. They can’t have it even if they have the money for it.”

Florida HB 849, which went into effect July 1, 2011, made it a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, to advertise, sell, offer, provide, distribute or market any product as hurricane, windstorm or impact-resistant unless it is in compliance with the provisions for product approval in the Florida Building Code which includes window film.

“The hurricane laws really did impact [business] and, personally, it’s too much of an impact,” says Millard. “When the shutter company organization got that law passed that said we can no longer advertise windstorm protection for window film, I actually think that’s an injustice to all of our potential customers. It did affect [the industry] and it hurt it and now we’ve stopped promoting it for windstorm protection.”

“Safety/security window films applied to glass are tested to the same break-safe standards required of tempered glass, heat-strengthened glass, and laminated glass. Window film manufacturers have copies of the actual laboratory test reports validating that their products do, in fact, meet specific impact testing,” says Darrell Smith, executive director for the International Window Film Association. “Upon repeated impacts to the same area, films can begin to tear due to the edges of the broken glass fragments penetrating the thickness of the film. This means that, in general, although films can help greatly by reducing glass hazards upon initial impact, with repeated impacts they may not continue to perform as well.”

“Window film offers a good deal of protection. It’s not as much as a storm shutter, but it’s something they can do,” says Millard. “From a cost point of view, there are a lot of younger families with a competition for dollars … they would still like to provide as much protection as possible for their families. Maybe they can’t afford storm shutters but [film] is something they can afford. I like the benefits of window film in addition to storm protection. Security films have suffered in Florida. Personally, I hate to see that happen because there are a lot of benefits to safety and security window films.”