Los Angeles and Santa Barbara—Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley today announced they’ve filed a joint enforcement action against wildfire home protection company, Sunseeker Enterprises, (DBA Sun FireDefense), and its owner, James Moseley, alleging false and misleading advertising claims about the effectiveness and environmental safety of its wildfire home protection product, SPF 3000 Clear Spray. SPF 3000 is advertised as a coating that can be applied to the exterior of a home to prevent it from catching fire and burning down, particularly in a wildfire.
"If you’re selling a product that you claim protects homes from wildfires, it better work as advertised. Lives depend on it," said Feuer. "In the wake of death and destruction from last year’s wildfires, and the potential for more devastation ahead, we’re alerting homeowners across California to be extra cautious when it comes to using so-called fire defense products to protect their homes and families. A false sense of security about how safe your home is in a wildfire could be deadly."
"As soon as I saw a commercial for this product I was skeptical. I then contacted our consumer protection prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Dalbey, who immediately began our investigation and ultimate prosecution." Dudley said. "Our consumers must have accurate marketing information, an absolute right that becomes all the more important when making crucial and life-saving decisions about how to defend their homes and families. Given the staggering danger posed by wildfires, it is critical that California consumers receive truthful, accurate, and scientifically-validated information about fire prevention and protection products. Lives, homes, and our public’s safety depend on it. If consumers falsely believe that their homes are protected from wildfires, when in fact their homes are not, those consumers could delay evacuation, placing their lives, the lives of their families and loved ones, and the lives of First Responders at great risk."
The joint enforcement action filed today arises from Sunseeker Enterprises’ alleged false and misleading television, print, and online advertisements along with advertisements on its website claiming that SPF 3000 Clear Spray “provides protection against heat and embers up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit,” is “effective for 5+ years after a single application,” was developed “through collaboration with NASA and the U.S. Forest Service,” is “non-toxic to humans or animals,” and uses “[t]he best eco-friendly fire protection materials,” among other allegedly false and misleading claims.
Feuer and Dudley requested that Sunseeker Enterprises substantiate these and other claims and engaged a third-party expert to test a product sample, leading to a lawsuit alleging that SPF 3000 Clear Spray does not perform as advertised, if at all; contains ingredients that under California law are presumptively hazardous to human health and the environment; and wood treated with it did not perform markedly better than the untreated wood.
In addition, Feuer and Dudley allege that Sunseeker misleads consumers through the use of logos—such as the National Fire Protection Association, the Discovery Channel, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Los Angeles Times—on its website and in marketing materials. Sunseeker has not provided documentation establishing endorsements from these organizations.
SPF 3000 Clear Spray costs approximately $3.50 per square foot, which, depending on the size of the home treated with it, can represent a significant expense compared to other home fire safety improvement projects.
Los Angeles Supervising Deputy City Attorney Christina Tusan and Deputy City Attorneys William Pletcher, Stephen Mayer, and Rebecca Morse, all of the L.A. City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit, and Christopher Dalbey, of the Santa Barbara D.A.’s Environmental and Consumer Protection Unit, are litigating this matter.
Feuer also urged residents to be aware of other scams tied to wildfires. Among them:
- Price Gouging: For 30 days following the declaration of a local state of emergency, it is against the law for businesses to sell food, goods or services used for emergency clean-up, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, housing, storage services or gasoline at a price that is more than 10% higher than the price charged immediately prior to the declaration. Hotels and motels are also prohibited from charging prices greater than 10% higher than rates advertised prior to the state of emergency. And for 180 days, it is illegal for contractors to sell or offer to sell any repair or reconstruction service or emergency clean-up services for more than 10% higher than they charged immediately prior to the declaration.
- Fire Inspection Scam: This targets businesses with fraudulent but official-looking fire inspectors pressuring unsuspecting employees to sign a form authorizing an "inspection" of the fire system. They either demand payment then and there, or send a bill in the mail, along with a copy of the signed authorization and a threat of serious penalties if they don’t pay up. Most fire agencies do not charge for inspections. Moreover, fake inspections can give businesses a false sense of security in believing their fire extinguishers, alarm systems, emergency lighting, exit signage and fire sprinklers are up to code and operating effectively.
- Fake Charity Scam: These prey on people’s goodwill and can take the form of a website, crowdfunding campaign or social media. Scammers can contact unsuspecting targets through email, text messages, tele-marketing and even in person. An easy way to research the charity is to google its name or phone number with the word “scam” or ‘complaint.” If you’re unsure, you can check to see if the charity is registered with the State of California.
Feuer urged anyone who thinks they have been targeted by any wildfire scams to contact the LA City Attorney’s Office.