BBB teams with security industry to fight fraud

Louisiana State Fire Marshal leads news conference on stopping deceptive sales practices
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BATON ROUGE, La.—As one of the leading states for deceptive sales practices, Louisiana consumers will be targets of deceptive doorknockers this summer who con them into switching their alarm service. Common ploys include offering an “upgrade,” or saying their current alarm company is “out-of-business.”

To combat these elicit practices, the Better Business Bureau teamed up with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, local victims, ADT and national industry associations including ESA and TMA to speak about this issue and offer consumer protection tips during a news conference here on May 18.

“We applaud the industry for continuing to root out the few bad apples who practice deceptive sales and con consumers,” Carmen Million of the Better Business Bureaus serving Baton Rouge said at the news conference. “Through today’s outreach we hope to prevent more front-door fraud.”

Million told Security Systems News the BBB feels the best protection for consumers is through education and events like this. “So not only do we want them to do their homework and investigate these companies, we also want them to know what their rights are before they get that knock on their door,” she said, pointing out that a security company should be licensed in the state, and many times within the county or district they are doing business.

“What the BBB does is vet some of these companies for consumers,” she said. “So it is vitally important that consumers check with the BBB before they sign on the dotted line.” She noted that if the contract is for more than $25, a consumer has three days in which to cancel the contract, and the company can’t install any equipment on their property before those three days are up.

In 2017, more than 700,000 consumers across North America used BBB resources to research information about home security companies. But thousands also complained about dishonest and misleading sales pitches, or reported door-to-door scams.

While in 2017 consumer complaints about home security sales ranked in the top 25 of the 3,500 business categories BBB tracks, Merlin Guilbeau, executive director and CEO for ESA pointed out that the industry was ranked in the top 10 when they began this campaign a few years back.

“That is a great stat to point to and say, ‘Yes, this is working,’” Guilbeau told SSN. “And it is working because of the collective effort including regulators like the state fire marshal’s office here in Louisiana and the relationship that the Louisiana chapter has with their regulator, which is second to none across the country.”

Jay Hauhn, executive director and CEO of The Monitoring Association, told SSN, "These events have absolutely had a positive impact on it, but that does not mean that we have won the battle and we are not going to take our foot off the pedal.”

In 2016, nearly 3,400 customers complained to ADT about deceptive sales from competitors. There were 800 fewer last year. While complaints are declining, ADT vows to keep fighting. “Whether we are bringing offenders to justice in a court of law or educating consumers in the court of public opinion, ADT will continue trying to stop deceptive sales in our industry,” P. Gray Finney, ADT chief legal officer, said in the ADT press release.

Guilbeau noted that these “bad actors” in the industry need to clean up their act. “They can make money in this industry by doing it the right way, without being misleading and deceptive,” he said.

Louisiana’s State Fire Marshal, H. “Butch” Browning, told SSN that the purpose of the event was to educate consumers about the “red flags” to look out for, and if there are any concerns of fraud, they should “contact our office so we can properly investigate it and protect safety and the consumer,” he said.

At the event, the BBB shared tips for consumers who are considering a home security system (bbb.org/homesecurity), and also released advice to potential employees who are being recruited to spend their summers knocking on doors (bbb.org/alarmsales).