The past couple of summers, the number of complaints we’ve received involving the sale of home alarm systems and services have dramatically increased. This is part of a nationwide trend – the Better Business Bureau reports that in 2008 the number of complaints they received increased by 68%.
Over the past 18 months, our consumer division has received almost 80 individual complaints, most of those coming between May and August of last year and this year.
These alarm salespeople go door to door, sometimes targeting homeowners who are displaying signs or stickers for their current home alarm system. They use several tactics, including:
* Attempting to scare consumers by mentioning “increase crime in the neighborhood”. Consumers should be aware that they can always verify local crime statistics with their local police department. In Topeka, the Topeka Police Department has a dedicated Statistical Unit that can be contacted by the public.
* Claiming to have an affiliation with your current alarm company. The salesperson will claim that your old alarm company went under and they are there to change your service for the new company OR that they are there to provide an ‘upgrade’ but in reality the salesperson is changing your service.
* Using high-pressure tactics to get consumers to divulge their current level of service and attempt to undercut the price or the service level.
There are other problems we are seeing:
* Unlicensed Suppliers: Companies are sending college aged individuals door-to-door without obtaining the required transient merchant license for counties, peddler’s license for cities or alarm systems salesperson specific license before soliciting consumers.
* Failure to provide proper information on the 3 day right to cancel and illegal use of automatic renewal clauses and early termination fees or requirements
Finally, the most common sales tactic is to offer “free” alarm systems – the number 1 rule for consumers is nothing is ever free. These salespeople attempt to force long term service contracts on consumers by touting “free” systems.
As always, Attorney General Six has a simple rule on door to door sales – if you don’t immediately recognize the business or organization at the door, end the conversation ASAP. There is always an alternative for purchasing goods and services, particularly something as important as your home alarm system.