Record Staff Writer
The False Alarm Reduction Association, an international organization, is warning people to be wary of door-to-door sales representatives for security alarm systems who use high-pressure tactics to make a sale. One Vivint, Inc. based in Provo, Utah, sends sales personnel periodically to Roswell, and several have fallen foul of Vivint.
Among the victims are a blind woman and an illiterate man, both of whom signed contracts they were not able to read and cannot afford to pay. Their contract has a comment in boldface print at the top of the page that states the consumer should read it carefully before signing. A third person had what was described as mental problems. Of the three listed only one, the woman with mental health issues, has been released from their contract.
Notably the blind woman and the man with reading difficulties are being held to their contract.
One couple reported that the sales representative arrived at the worst possible time and then refused to leave. “He came here when we had removed the cabinet and the sink because pipes were broken and we had a snake in the house. I kept telling him that he had come at a bad time, but he grabbed my spouse and pulled him out to the porch.”
According to the wife, only a few minutes had passed before her spouse returned, saying they needed her signature. She refused.
The sales rep then entered the home and asked for her Social Security number and her bank account number. Again she refused. “My husband does not know how to read, and when I asked him why he did it, he said he wanted to get me more protection.”
The couple’s home had been broken into in the past. The family emergency passed and she was able to read the contract 10 days later, only to discover a 3-day cooling-off period; but she did contact the firm. Vivint refused to let the couple out of contract, stating that the husband had indicated he had understood the deal Vivint had on offer. She was told that they would have to pay in full to get out of the contract or get someone else to take over the payments.
Therefore, the time the sales representative spent with her spouse becomes important because the sales person could not have adequately explained the terms of the contract, which would have been impossible for the husband to read.
Vivint offers services which do not require pre-payment for equipment, making the alarms attractive to low income families who cannot afford a large initial outlay. The couple is now looking into a loan to make the payments.
The 81-year-old blind woman has faced similar hard choices. She had no complaint about the service—in fact, she hopes to retain the medical alarm service—however, she has had to choose between paying her gas bill or property taxes or paying Vivint. This month she paid Vivint.
Meanwhile, Vivint has been sued by four different states for unfair business practices. The state of Oregon filed against APX Alarm Security, now known as Vivint, for false and misleading sales tactics, aggressive sales tactics, including refusing to leave someone’s home when asked. California’s lawsuit listed not only false and misleading sales tactics, but overly aggressive “collection techniques.” Vivint is now required to provide Spanish-language translations for their interviews, both pre- and post- installation. Both Wisconsin and Arkansas filed suits for similar reasons.
Lisa Davis, customer service representative with Vivint, expressed dismay at the treatment these customers had received. She said that Vivint had 700,000 customers nationwide and they were working to train their employees in fair business and sales practices.
Davis stated the couple, both who are over the age of 70, should have been allowed to cancel since Vivint has a 30-day extended cooling-off period for senior citizens. she was also distressed that a blind woman was being held to a contract, which she was incapable of reading, and Davis promised to look into the matter.
According to the FARA, Vivint is not alone. Summertime is the peak period. Their website states: “Some use ethical sales practices, but many do not. Various state, provincial and local officials have filed suit and or entered into settlement agreements with numerous companies for deceptive sales practices.”
Steve Determan of Desert Security said he had received complaints. “I only hear these things second hand, but these people seem to be awfully pushy. They go after the elderly and those who can’t say no. … They lock you into a long-term contract, and you can’t get out of it.”
The local companies do not do this. “We don’t browbeat people; we don’t scare people to death. We have to live with these people; we won’t do it.”
Determan added, “Without proper maintenance, it’s worthless and these long-distance companies don’t maintain their equipment.”
Often these people use high-pressure tactics. “I don’t mind a little competition,” Determan said. “It’s the brow-beating, lying and deceit I can’t stand.”
Some sales reps may misrepresent themselves as coming from the individual’s own alarm company to test the equipment. They may claim that the person’s company has gone out of business and they are taking over the area. The sales rep will tell the clients that they need to buy new equipment.
FARA urges any potential customers running across these sales techniques should contact their local firm to confirm that their account has been transferred to another company.
Generally speaking, FARA recommends that people not go through door-to-door salesmen. Do no let them inside a home. People need to see their solicitor’s license. Many recommendations are common sense, such as: Do comparative pricing before signing anything. If the sales rep is unwilling to provide time to read the contract thoroughly, give it a miss. if the sales rep persists after being asked to leave, FARA says: “call the police.”