Wallingford, CT - May 3, 2012 – Summer is typically when the door-to-door alarm companies hit the pavement hard. Many companies use students on their summer break from school to conduct door-to-door sales. However, Connecticut BBB wants consumers to understand common, questionable sales tactics used in some of these front door pitches.
BBB has compiled some of the tricks some alarm companies use while they’re in your neighborhood and in your house to get your signature on a contract.
Don’t count on a salesperson being licensed with the state
- Make sure you always ask for detailed identification and verify whether any company is legally registered at the Secretary of the State’s website
For safety’s sake and to be in compliance with the law, once you have narrowed your search, contact the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) at (800) 842-2649, or visit the DCP website http://www.ct.gov/dcp
to be sure that the alarm company is a licensed low-voltage contractor or unlimited electrical contractor in Connecticut as required by law.
Who are they really calling? - BBB has had reports of alarm company salesmen coming into houses with existing alarm systems. As a way to try and disparage the home owner’s current alarm company, the salesman will allegedly call the existing company to ask about the features and capabilities of the alarm system. Of course, the phone call is not going to the existing alarm company. The call is going to a dummy number that goes to someone else with the company trying to sell you a new alarm.
This is not a new occurrence in door-to-door sales, but it is a practice that is definitely deceptive. The person on the other end of the line makes it sound like the currently installed system is old and antiquated. The call is very likely going to the installation technicians that are very closely following the salesmen.
Getting rid of your old equipment - When you agree to purchase an alarm system from a door-to-door salesman, and you already have an existing alarm system, they will tell you that they will remove the old equipment for you. Usually it will end up in the trash.
The downside to this is that you might not actually own the equipment. In some instances the existing equipment is leased to you. This can potentially cause a couple of dilemmas. The first is that you might be charged by your existing alarm company for the removed equipment.
The second possible dilemma is that you might be billed extra if you change your mind. The BBB has had reports of alarm installers cutting the wiring to the old system so short that if you want to have your old system re-installed, your old alarm company will most likely have to re-wire your house to get the alarm system back in.
Seniors misled that have 30 days to cancel - not 3 days - Many consumers have reported to the BBB that they have been told that they have 30 days to cancel since they are over the age of 70. However, the contracts that they signed say three days. Ultimately, you should go by what your signed contract says.
The Federal Cooling-Off Rule states that you have three business days to cancel a contract from a door-to-door salesman as long as the purchase is over $25. Keep in mind that Saturdays do in fact count as a business day, so your cancellation notice must be postmarked by midnight of the third business day. Only Sundays and Federal Holidays are not counted as business days. A simple rule to follow is that if the mail is running, it’s a business day.
A general rule to follow is that you only count on what is specified in the contract. If a salesman makes a promise of something that isn’t in writing, don’t count on it happening.
You’re not under any obligation to your existing alarm company - BBB has had reports of door-to-door salesmen telling people with existing alarm systems that they aren’t under any obligation to their existing company, since their original contract has expired. However, this may not the case at all.
The alarm industry’s standard procedure for contracts is an auto-renewal for one year after the initial contract is finished. In order to not have the one year extension, you must notify your existing company in writing 30 days prior to the auto-renewal date. This means that if you have an existing provider, you are most likely still under a contract. If you have a new alarm system installed, you might be stuck paying both companies until the end of the contract.
Before choosing, contact at least three alarm companies for a written estimate. Prices will vary greatly based on the level of protection and type of technology, so compare apples-to-apples when comparing prices and services.
Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection recommends consumers ask several questions and carefully consider the answers before signing a contract:
• Do you screen all your employees before hiring?
• Where is you monitoring center located?
• Is it open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year?
• Is customer service available 24/7?
• What is my recourse if I am not satisfied with the services provided?
• What are my rights if your company is bought or acquired by another company?
• Is it possible for another company to do the monitoring after my initial contract expires?
• What is the warranty period and what’s included in the warranty?
• Am I buying or leasing this equipment?
• What are the terms of cancellation of my service contract if I’m not satisfied or have to move?
Once you’ve chosen the company best suited to your needs and budget, hold them accountable for the entire system installation -- be sure that the company you’ve so carefully selected doesn’t subcontract the work out. Get a written contract and check that all the details of your job are there. Both you and the company must sign and date it before the work begins. Your written contract is an additional measure of protection for you, your family and your property.
Written contracts must be in clear, simple language that includes the cost of the alarm and the cost of monitoring. Also look for clear and conspicuous language that outlines the terms of your contract renewal.
Don’t give in to high pressure sales tactics to sign a contract on the spot. Do your research, and check out all your options. Call your BBB at (203) 269-2700 or visit http://www.ct.bbb.org/ to research a business before you buy. If the company really wants your business, they’ll follow up in a day or two.