Action 9: Surge protection program may not protect you



ORLANDO,Fla. - An Orange County family claims a freak power surge wiped out their appliances and electronics. Then, they said, the power company refused to cover the damages even though they had surge protection. 

Jonathan and Souad Omari said they had scorched wiring, fried electronics and major kitchen appliances knocked out by the surge.

They said the surge started with the crack of popping circuits.

"Then there was a smell like plastic burning around the house," said Jonathan Omari.

The Omari's were told Progress Energy's  underground power line had failed and triggered the surge. As bad as it was, the family thought their loses were covered.

Several years ago, the family signed up for the power company's surge protection program. A device was attached near the meter to intercept most surges.

The Omari's said they paid $6 a month and if the device failed, Progress Energy reimbursed the cost of repairs or replacements.

Then they received a letter rejecting their claim.

"I tell everybody paying for this surge protection, 'It is a bogus thing.  It's not there when you need it,'" said Jonathan Omari.

Omari contacted  Action 9 and we called Progress Energy. The company said it's neutral power lines failed and sent "over voltage into the house" for an extended period of time, so it was not a single surge that would qualify for coverage.

"I feel I've been duped," said Omari.

Some consumer groups question surge protection because claim rejections are common and  a family's homeowner's insurance is usually better.

"The homeowner's policy, the way I see it, is far more robust protection than what's offered by a single vendor, like the power company," said Richard Kithil with the National Lightning Safety Institute.

The Omari's are said they are canceling surge protection.

"It's money I'm paying and I don't know what it's for," said Jonathan Omari.

Progress Energy said the problem was not caused by its negligence, another reason it didn't cover damages.

The Omaris had a wiring protection warranty, so the power company did cover some outlet repairs.