The Investigators: Banging On Your Door - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Banging On Your Door

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By Andy Wise - bio | email

ANDY'S ADVICE ON ALARM COMPANIES:

* Always check their service histories with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org/us), nationally and regionally.

* Check each company's licensure status with your state agency that regulates alarm/security companies (contacts at end of this story).

* Not only should the company be licensed, but also its technicians and sales personnel. They should carry card versions of those licenses and have them ready for inspection (lanyard, wallet, etc.).

* You should resist UNSOLICITED door-to-door sales from an alarm company unless you are the owner of a brand new home WITHOUT an active alarm contract.

(WMC TV) - The name's changed, but the concerns are the same.

Consumers and watchdogs with the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South continue to express their concerns about the door-to-door sales practices of the alarm company Vivint, Inc., formerly APX Alarm Security Solutions, Inc. of Provo, UT.

According to Randy Hutchinson, president of the Mid-South BBB, Vivint has logged 11 Mid-South complaints, each closed to the customer's satisfaction. Nationally, the BBB has documented 1,391 Vivint/APX Alarm complaints in the last three years.

All have been closed administratively -- 413 of them closed in the last 12 months -- concerning problems with Vivint's product or service, advertising/sales, billing/collection, delivery and guarantees.

The BBB gives Vivint a "D" grade.

"They are targeting homes that already have somebody else's alarm company sign in front, and before the customer knows it, they've somehow signed up with an entirely different company," said Hutchinson.

Merry Allen of Jonesboro, AR, was under a competitor's alarm contract when a Vivint salesperson showed up at her front door, she said.

"He was real aggressive," Allen said. "He just pushed his way into our house."

Despite a yard sign indicating the competitor's protection of her property, Allen said Vivint's salesperson convinced her that she would save money over the long haul with Vivint's remotely controlled thermostat feature.

"He assured us that we would save the money on our electric bill by that thermostat," she said.

Instead, she said there was no change in her electric bill, and her monthly alarm bill doubled.

She insisted Vivint's representative come back, cancel the contract and reimburse what she had paid toward the contract, which he did.

She said he removed the hardware and left with a parting shot.

"He was saying, 'You don't care about the protection of your family,'" she said. "He questioned the security of my family and couldn't believe I wouldn't want to put money towards making my family feel secure."

Records from the Tennessee Alarm Systems Contractors Board indicate APX Alarm officially started operating as Vivint in February, a little more than two years after Action News 5 first reported concerns with the company (please read that story here:  http://www.wmctv.com/story/8418646/stand-your-ground-alarm-companies).

Back then, the Action News 5 Investigators caught APX Alarm operating in Tennessee without an alarm contractor's license.

A year later, the company signed a consent order with the state, acknowledging that it had failed to renew its license in a timely manner. According to a copy of the order, APX Alarm was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $1,000.

Better Business Bureau records revealed and state records confirmed Vivint/APX Alarm has paid civil penalties in as many as three other states -- Washington, Oregon & Arkansas -- to settle allegations ranging from license violations to false/misleading sales tactics to aggressive sales tactics.

As recently as April, the company was hit with a court judgment in California (to read summaries of these cases, click here:  http://www.bbb.org/utah/business-reviews/burglar-alarm-systems-dealers-monitoring-and-service/vivint-in-provo-ut-4002276#govtaction).

"We take all complaints very seriously, and investigate and resolve each one," said Megan Herrick, Vivint's public relations director, in an e-mail to The Action News 5 Investigators. "If an employee is found in breach of our high standards, they face disciplinary actions up to and including termination."

The rest of Herrick's e-mail response is as follows:

"Our free market economy is based on consumers having choices and good information.  Vivint's in-person sales team provides consumers with more choices and information about home security and automation packages that are some of the most affordable, simplest to use and highest quality on the market. We have confidence in each consumer to evaluate the information we provide, do additional research, ask questions, and then make the best decision for their homes and families.

"Vivint's in-person sales approach ensures that each customer receives personalized attention and counsel on the services and products that work best in their homes and with their lifestyles. Vivint has one of the best customer service and retention records in the industry for a reason. We have award-winning products and services. In fact, Vivint recently received two "Best Buy" ratings from Consumer Digest. Vivint has a strict screening process and a rigorous and ongoing training program for our sales team."

"I've been extremely pleased with (Vivint)," said Tony Scott, a Cordova, TN, locksmith and security source of The Action News 5 Investigators. Scott's home is protected by a Vivint security system.

"I can access it through my smart phone, set the alarm, disarm it, look at my cameras," Scott said. "It's a great system."

After Vivint removed its system from Allen's home, her original alarm contractor re-installed its system and renewed her contract, plus a $50 service fee.

You should always research any company with your state's regulatory boards and with the BBB.

Joe Green, salesperson for the BBB A+ rated Security Enterprises, Inc., of Bartlett, TN (www.securityenterprisestn.com), said not only should an alarm COMPANY be licensed, but also its technicians and sales personnel -- with those licenses in plain sight for inspection.

"If they're not, they're not legal to be doing the alarm systems in the first place," said Green.

Tennessee is one of the few states which actually has an agency dedicated to regulating home security companies. You can link to the Tennessee Alarm Systems Contractors Board right here:  http://tennessee.gov/commerce/boards/asc/.

In Mississippi, you can file complaints against alarm companies with the state attorney general's consumer affairs division (http://www.ago.state.ms.us/index.php/sections/consumer/complaints).  You can also check with the Mississippi Alarm Association at http://www.msalarm.org/ to see if a company is a member of the trade organization.

In Arkansas, file complaints with the state attorney general's office at http://www.ag.state.ar.us/ or check with the Arkansas Security Alarm Association at http://www.arkansasalarm.org/consumers/index.htm

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