Summer may be over, but the scam reports on fraudulent practices by door knocking alarm companies are still rolling in. If this is a new topic for you, door knockers are the outfits whose representatives show up uninvited with a home security offer that is just too good to pass up. Of course, these deals are often just that: too good. Now add in the high-pressure sales pitch – and even the fraudulent and deceptive tactics – that have come to embody door-to-sales in the alarm industry, and you see where the mountains of complaints come from: this time in Florida.
Even the Federal Trade Commission has Warned
These high-pressure hucksters are routinely in trouble, as you can tell from checking their poor reviews, reams of unhappy consumer testimonials, and the fines, lawsuits, and other government actions listed on the BBB (Better Business Bureau) website. Even the Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about these folks. States and local jurisdictions are not happy, as this story shows.
On Tuesday, the Palm Coast city administration issued an advisory to residents to be on their guard about door-to-door solicitors representing Vivint Inc., a Utah-based home security company. The solicitors, the city warned, were misrepresenting facts and themselves, saying they were representatives either of Palm Coast or of Flagler County. A Vivint spokeswoman denied that such misrepresentation was taking place. Records say otherwise.
Details on Complaints
In Palm Coast and elsewhere, according to Palm Coast Code Enforcement logs, Flagler County Sheriff’s reports and the Better Business Bureau, Vivint’s name is riddled with a history of complaints and proven practices similar to those cited by Palm Coast residents, which prompted the city to act. Vivint faces recurring findings of deceptive practices and misrepresentation in several states, including Kansas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, California, Ohio and Nebraska, according to Better Business Bureau records. (Vivint is not BBB-accredited,) In each state, the company agreed to settlement orders issued either by a court or by the state attorney general to end using a variety of deceptive practices and making misleading claims or charges.
In other words, the company may deny the reports as much as they want to, but there is just too much factual evidence of governmental actions to ignore.
The Nuts and Bolts of How They Operate
Just two months ago, Vivint entered into a voluntary compliance agreement with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. Vivint, according to the agreement, “shall not make any misrepresentations and/or false or misleading statements, directly or by implication, which have the tendency or effect of deceiving or misleading consumers.” Among the issues cited—which will sound familiar to Palm Coast complainants: the company made claims that it was affiliated with another company or agency when it wasn’t, it made claims that it was upgrading an existing home alarm system when it wasn’t, it’s claimed that an existing security has either gone out of business or merged with another, when that was not the case, and so on.
But Wait… There’s More
Less than two months earlier, the company agreed to a similar settlement with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office after consumers filed complaints that Vivint claimed, according to BBB documents, “that its home security equipment was free, but failed to disclose the existence or amount of installation, activation and monitoring fees associated with the system. Vivint door-to-door sales representatives misrepresented the price of continued monthly monitoring fees, made representations that it was providing an upgrade to the consumer’s current home security system; that the consumer’s current security system company was no longer in business; or that Vivint was otherwise part of or authorized to continue monitoring the consumer’s current home security system.”
Resident Reports a Perfect Example
One [Palm Coast] resident wrote on Aug. 3 of a solicitor’s visit on Corona Court. “What concerned me was that he was implying he was representing the City of Palm Coast and Flagler County,” the resident wrote. “He started his sales pitch by stating that he was here on behalf of Flagler to let us know that the telephone lines in our neighborhoods where going to be upgraded in two weeks, and that some of the current systems will not be compatible with the emergency system. I asked him why is the County involved with phone lines and specifically the replacement and upgrade of the lines? And why are we not being notify directly by the County or City? He stated that’s what he was doing. He became really pushy, to the point I had to just close the door and tell him we were not interested in his products and services.” Needless to say, there is no such phone line upgrade in the works, nor are city and county governments involved.
Breaking the Rules – Repeatedly
Documents show that just between July 15 and July 30, there were nine calls to the Sheriff’s Office regarding Vivint or Arm Security, the contractor Vivint works with in Flagler County, with complaints of after-hour soliciting, harassment tactics and refusing to leave a property after being asked to do so. On July 30, the city mailed a warning to Arm Security, and whose offices are in Jacksonville. Palm Coast may revoke Vivint’s permit if problems persist.
These are classic complaints, including the misrepresentation claims, where a door knocker pretends to be from a homeowner’s existing alarm company. As word has gotten out on door knockers, and it’s harder to make the sale, some of them are resorting to lies and downright fraud to sign up new customers.
What Can You Do?
Consumers should utilize the following tips to protect themselves in door-to-door sales:
- Be wary of high pressure tactics. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t answer the door.
- Get all verbal promises in writing. Otherwise, they may not be honored.
- Read the fine print. Check the length of the contract and all costs, including equipment, installation, and monthly monitoring fees.
- Understand your right to cancel. For door-to-door sales, sellers generally must give you three days to cancel and they cannot start the installation or any service until after the cancellation period has ended.
- Take your time. Don’t sign a contract until you have carefully reviewed it.
Why Worse This Summer?
The alarm industry has generally agreed that door knocking this summer hit new ethical lows. Reasons include fierce competition in recruiting door knocking sale personnel, huge hiring bonuses to lure sales managers and sale reps away from other door knocking companies, and a shakeup among the top companies who sell this way. It’s known that the obscenely high sales commissions paid to college students selling door-to-door result in some door knockers engaging in overly aggressive selling – or even obliterating the truth to make a sale. As mentioned above, some cases involve poaching subscribers from other alarm companies. And while the door knockers claim such behavior is limited, or old news, recent incidents such as the Palm Coast warning refer to ongoing fraud and deception.
Harder to Sell Door-to Door
As many door knockers know, the bad news is out: customer complaints and horrible reviews continue to accumulate. Remember, door knockers don’t want you to research them: the complaints are too many and too easy to find, along with low ratings from the BBB – to say nothing of more attractive offers from other alarm companies with better reputations and service records – like FrontPoint. When you’re ready to learn why we are the nationwide leader in wireless home security, just check us out online. We make home security and home automation safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. And best of all, you never have to answer that knock at your door.