4 Most Common Complaints About Alarm Systems (and How to Avoid Them)

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As with every industry, the home security industry unfortunately has its share of less-than-honest providers. Here are four of the most common complaints about alarm systems and their providers, and how you can be confident you'll get an effective security system that you're happy with.

1. Broken Promises of Emergency Personnel Response

Occasionally, dodgy home security companies promise a response by emergency personnel after an alarm, despite not employing the necessary personnel for doing so. They may promise this based on monitored systems that notify local police and fire responders, but many cities have specific ordinances requiring home security providers to verify alarms before responders are dispatched.

Before signing a home security contract, check local ordinances about responses to home alarms. Some cities require that homeowners register alarm systems. These ordinances are enacted due to high personnel costs associated with responding to false alarms. Also check out the security company's internal monitoring system to ensure that it operates 24/7/365.

2. "Free" Equipment that Isn't Free

Dishonest home security companies try to lure consumers into expensive contracts by promising "free" equipment in return for allowing placement of the company's signage in the homeowner's yard. Often these companies assess fees and charges that more than offset the cost of the "free" equipment. These tactics often violate state consumer protection laws.

Legitimate home security companies sometimes run specials offering free equipment when you sign a contract with them. The difference is that with legitimate companies, you approach them through an ad or website rather than being approached by a door-to-door salesperson. Be wary of someone showing up at your door offering you "free" home security equipment.

3. Telemarketing Calls to Numbers on the “Do Not Call" List

Sometimes, less-than-honest home security companies call phone numbers that are on national and/or state Do Not Call lists, and they can get into trouble for doing so. While explaining that you're on the Do Not Call registry should put a stop to unwanted solicitations, in some cases, companies continue to call you, and if they do, you should report them.

In addition to the Federal Communications Commission's Do Not Call registry, many states have their own Do Not Call registries. Telemarketers have to search the registry at least one time every 31 days, and must delete the phone numbers of consumers who have registered. If you're on the national Do Not Call list and receive calls from telemarketers, you can file a complaint with the FCC online. If your state maintains its own Do Not Call list, you can complain to your state as well.

4. Lies About Providers Going Out of Business

Home security providers in several states have tried telling homeowners who already have security systems that their service provider has gone out of business or has been purchased by the salesperson's company. The customer is then asked to sign a contract with the new company. The result often is that the customer ends up paying for two contracts, one or both of which may be difficult to terminate.

If a salesperson shows up at your door and says your security company has been bought or is out of business, call your existing security company immediately. Chances are you'll find out they're operating as usual, and that the salesperson at your door is lying. One simple call to your security company could save you major headaches.

Many of the complaints consumers have about home alarm companies come down to being pressured into buying something by someone who contacted them, rather than the other way around. If you're interested in a monitored home security system, you should be the one in control. Research companies on your own, compare rates and services, and never sign a contract without reading it thoroughly and making sure you understand it.

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