Florida is once again in the news for violation of unfair trade practices—this time it is a window and shutter company at fault, according to Florida’s Attorney General.

Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a lawsuit in late July against hurricane shutter company Rolladen Inc. and its principal, Robert Hoffman, for deceptive and unfair trade practices. Rolladen, a Hallandale-based company, markets and sells hurricane shutters and impact windows to Florida consumers and allegedly required substantial deposits up front but never installed the shutters or windows.

According to court documents, Rolladen required that consumers provide a 40-percent deposit on the total price of the shutters or windows. Then at some point prior to installation the company demanded an additional 40 percent paid by the consumer. As of June 1, 2011 Rolladen had accepted more than $683,000 in consumer deposits for goods or services that had never been provided, according to court documents.

Rolladen allegedly violated Florida law which requires that if a contractor requests more than a 10percent deposit of the total contract price, the contractor must apply for the permit within 30 days and must start work within 90 days after the required permits are issued. According to court documents, “Rolladen failed to even apply for a permit for a large portion of the outstanding contracts.”

Court documents also state that Rolladen’s continued marketing and sales of hurricane and storm products and installations to Florida consumers is unfair and unconscionable …. Particularly given that Rolladen continues to accept new orders for hurricane shutters and impact windows at the onset of another hurricane season.

“As Floridians safeguard their homes against hurricanes, they deserve the assurance of knowing that they are doing business with fair and honest companies,” says Bondi. “My office will continue to investigate deceptive business practices and protect all of Florida’s consumers.”

According to an investigation started in March by the Attorney General’s Office, Rolladen required consumers to pay 40 to 80 percent of the contract price up-front for the hurricane shutters, promising delivery and installation within six to 12 weeks of the contract date.

 The lawsuit, filed in the Broward County Circuit Court, seeks an order prohibiting Rolladen from marketing and selling shutters and windows until the company can complete installations in accordance with Florida contractor requirements. The lawsuit also seeks an immediate freeze on all assets of the company to maximize refunds to consumers. Hoffman was arrested in July by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office on charges of running an organized scheme to defraud and unlicensed contracting.

Unfair trade practices in Florida also were in the news recently when Florida legislators signed HB 849 which make 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.

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