The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan (BBB) is warning the public about an increase in reports of aggressive door-to-door salespersons offering free alarm systems to local home owners. During unscheduled home sales calls, salespersons are reported to be pressuring consumers into signing contracts that offer a free alarm system and free installation but charge monthly monitoring fees that are automatically deducted from the owner's bank account.
According to complainants, the salespersons are often misleading about contract details and consumers end up in contracts with auto-renewal and automatic bank account deduction clauses that keep them paying well after the service term and even after the consumer has moved.
Consumers are also reporting significant difficulty canceling their contracts, even when they specifically follow the cancelation procedures in their contract, and contacting alarm company customer service departments regarding billing issues.
As with any door-to-door sales calls, the BBB advises consumers to not purchase anything on a whim without taking time to read contracts, do research on a company and comparison shop, especially when giving personal information such as bank account numbers. If you decide to purchase an in-home alarm system, consumers should check with the Better Business Bureau for an Online Business Review (http://detroit.bbb.org/Find-Business-Reviews/) on the company; ask friends and neighbors for references and always comparison shop.
Further BBB Tips on purchasing home security systems are as follows:
- Some companies will offer a “free” alarm system. While the equipment and installation may be free (make sure this is in writing), there is a monthly monitoring fee. When you compare costs between companies, make sure you compare all the costs, as the “free” alarm offers might end up costing more over the term of the contract.
- Find out about local building codes and regulations regarding burglar alarms (including costs for false alarms).
Check out the company that will be monitoring your system. Ask if it is the same company you are signing a contract with. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of this company and do research before signing anything.
Consider advantages and disadvantages of each system and decide which will be best for your particular situation.
- Does the company call you first before notifying the police?
- Does the company call the police first?
- Does the company have a security patrol car that will check out the alarm and if necessary call the police?
- How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
- What happens if the alarm company is unable to reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
Ask for procedures in writing, so you are aware of the steps and can anticipate how you can best handle the situation.
Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company at the Better Business Bureau’s website, http://easternmichigan.bbb.org.
Don’t be pressured into buying something you don’t want or need. A reputable company will let you check out the offer and compare bids from several installers.
Make sure the contract includes all promises made by the sales person. If the promises are not in the contract do not sign the contract.
Study the contract carefully. Confirm information such as:
- Installation price
- Monthly price
- Length of the contract (most contracts are for at least two years)
- That any free or discount offers have been added
- Who is responsible for maintenance and repair of the alarm and what the procedure is for requesting and paying for repairs
- The cancellation policy, including the time frame to cancel the contract directly after purchase. The Federal Trade Commission requires that at least three days be provided (www.ftc.gov, three day cooling off rule).
If you are planning on moving ask what happens with your contract, and get that information in writing from the sales person.
After your purchase, make sure you check the system routinely to be sure it is in working order.
If you are having problems with your alarm, make sure you document dates, times, who you talked with, who came out and what was fixed.