Better Business Bureaus around the country are reporting annual summer calls from consumers regarding door-to-door sellers of home alarm systems.
According to Dick Eppstein, president of the BBB of Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan, in some cases the tactics used by these sellers are seriously misleading or deceptive. Every year, several national alarm companies hire sales crews to go through neighborhoods and sell home security products and monitoring services.
Consumers have reported that the claims made by some sellers are misleading or even flagrantly false. One major alarm seller was just fined $20 million for the dishonest practices of its door-to-door salespeople.
The Federal Trade Commission warns about tactics some of these companies may use:
• Sellers may claim a time-limited offer and insist on acting now. They may encourage signing a contract by saying the equipment is free. More than likely, strings are attached, such as signing a long-term and expensive system monitoring contract.
• Sellers may pressure their way into your home, then refuse to leave. It’s safer to say no on the doorstep and refuse them entrance. If a salesperson continues to pressure after being asked to leave, call the police.
• They may use scare tactics, such as talking about a rash of supposed burglaries in your neighborhood.
Some door-to-door sales agents target homeowners who have signs on their properties for security systems with other companies. In these cases, they may state or imply that they are from the existing security company and that they’re there to upgrade or replace the current system. Once inside your home, however, they may install a new security system and have you sign papers that include a costly contract for their own company monitoring service.
Or they may claim your security company has gone out of business, that they’ve taken over the accounts, and that you have to buy new equipment and sign new contracts. If this happens, call your current monitoring company to confirm. Normally, you would be notified of a change like this by mail or telephone, not by an unannounced visit by a representative from another company.
Before doing business with a door-to-door alarm seller, BBB and the FTC advise getting full information on the company. Ask for literature which includes its name, address, phone numbers, website, and license numbers.
If you own an existing alarm system and they claim the equipment is being replaced (or the company is out of business) do not sign anything until you call your company to confirm the story.
If in doubt, call BBB at 419-531-3116 or 800-743-4222.