April 26, 2012, Wichita Falls, TX- Over the last several years, the volume of inquiries into door-to-door alarm sales companies has spiked and summer is normally when the door-to-door alarm companies are hitting the pavement hard. The BBB still expects an increase in door-to-door activity as the summer approaches because many companies use students on their summer break from school to conduct door-to-door sales.
The BBB has been compiling some of the tricks the alarm companies use while they’re in your neighborhood and in your house to get the deal done.
Texas Department of Public Safety’s Private Security Bureau regulates the following with regards to burglar alarms:
- Alarm Installers
- Alarm System Monitoring
- Alarm Salespersons
Texas law requires any person or company who provides investigations or security services in the state to be properly licensed to offer or to engage in such services. This requirement of law was originally passed by the Texas Legislature in 1969 and has been in effect ever since. To offer or provide a service required to be licensed, without a license carries criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and a $4,000.00 fine, and hiring or employing an unlicensed company also carries this penalty.
Trick # 1: Don’t count on the salesman in your house being licensed with the state.
Make sure you always ask them for their DPS Private Security pocket card, which will also have their picture. They should be carrying this card with them at all times. This ensures that they have gone through the proper background check. You should also be aware that state law requires that the installation technicians must have their license number displayed on their vehicle.
Trick #2: 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.
Trick #3: 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 company for the removed equipment.
The second possible dilemma is that you might get additional costs 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.
Trick #4: Seniors have 30 days to cancel instead of 3 days.
Numerous 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 3 days. Ultimately, you should go by what your signed contract says.
The Federal Cooling-Off Rule states that you have 3 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 3rd 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 lined out in the contract. If a salesman makes a promise of something that isn’t in writing, don’t count on it happening.
Trick #5: You’re not under any obligation to your existing alarm company.
The 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. This is very likely not the case at all, though.
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.
One Final Note
It would be very hard to check on the licensing status of someone who just knocked on your door before signing a contract inside of an hour. With that being said, don’t give in to high pressure sales tactics. Do your research, and check out all your options. Call the BBB or go to www.BBB.org to find information on businesses before you buy. If the company really wants your business, they’ll follow up in a day or two.