February 15, 2012
"Free" Alarm Systems are Not What You Think
Alarm systems cost a lot less today than they used to, and there are some great reasons for this: manufacturers have lowered the equipment prices they charge alarm companies, wireless sensors require less technician training and labor expense, and, most importantly, alarm companies have realized that the value of an alarm customer lies in creating a long-term relationship with a monthly service fee. The bad news is that plenty of alarm companies are using an offer of “Free” equipment to draw you in, and you get the real story after the fact - if ever. As this article from a Thomasville, Georgia television station shows, you really have to be careful.
You're sitting at home, and the phone rings. The caller represents a home security company. They say they'd like to offer you a free alarm system and they won't take no for an answer. "I don't think a reputable company would call somebody with the intention of getting a deal over a phone. In my opinion that is not the way to do business in any respect," said Reese Brookerd, a local alarm company representative.
I agree with that local alarm company. To me, the unsolicited phone call is just as bad as the unsolicited knock on the door. And, these offers almost always come with hidden fees - activation charges, monthly service costs paid up front, or my least favorite one of all: the “FREE” system is not really sufficient to protect your home, and to add the equipment you need will cost you a lot. We hear that complaint all the time from new FrontPoint customers who also shopped the competition. They were happy to find our transparent pricing and affordable prices.
Pressure Sales - and Preying on the Elderly
Citizens in Thomas County [GA], mainly older folks, say they're being targeted by those types of calls. Police say callers try to pressure folks into signing up for their service. And investigators say the companies don't always provide the services they promise. That could leave people vulnerable to burglaries. "And it not only happens here, but it happens all over. You get these companies that have a mass market mentality and their idea is if they can get you on the front end, if they put more [customers] on the front end and some fall off on the back end, that's how they'll make their money," said Brookerd.
Again, I could not agree more. There’s really no place for high pressure sales in home security. After all, we are protecting people’s homes and families, so peace of mind should be the first priority. No alarm system will make your home completely burglar-proof: however, the right system (with safer cellular monitoring) can reduce your chances of being burglarized and provide that extra sense of security.
The Better Business Bureau advises doing research when selecting a home security system with the same care you would with any major purchase. Before selecting a home security system provider, the BBB that recommends consumers follow the following recommendations.
Nine Great Shopping Tips from the BBB
- Contact at least three companies before selecting an alarm service provider, and ask if they screen employees before hiring.
- Check with BBB for a Business Review to see if a prospective company has a positive marketplace record and ensure it promptly dealt with any of the issues that may arise.
- Once you have narrowed your search, contact your state department of consumer protection to be sure that the alarm company is a licensed contractor if as required by law. Remember, not all are required to be licensed: it depends on the state, and the alarm company’s business model.
- Compare apples-to-apples bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in an initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring charges.
- Ask for a complete inspection of your property and an itemized written estimate. Review the sales contract closely to ensure you understand exactly what equipment and protection you will be provided.
- Talk to your insurance agent; some systems may qualify you for a discount on homeowner's premiums.
- Find out the length of a monitoring contract. Consider the following questions before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract: What is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided? Can you cancel the contract? What are your rights if your monitoring company is purchased or acquired by another alarm company?
- Make sure you know whether the contract automatically renews and how far in advance you need to inform them if you don’t want to renew it.
- Insist that the installer "walk" you through your system until you fully understand how it works to prevent false alarms.
When you check FrontPoint on the BBB site – and we certainly hope you will – you’ll see that we have the fewest complaints over the past 36 months of any nationwide alarm company. That’s because we’re the kind of company that consumers like to deal with. On the other hand, FrontPoint has more positive on-line reviews than any nationwide alarm company that we can find – also a very good sign that you can trust FrontPoint with your peace of mind.
As we’ve said before, FrontPoint has never cold-called, telemarketed, or sold door-to-door – and we are 100% transparent in what we charge (and don’t charge!). The best home security customers are the people who are looking for a system in the first place, and with home security expanding to including to include remote video, interactive features, and even control of light, locks, and thermostats, it’s no wonder that demand is increasing. Our systems are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. That’s what makes FrontPoint the leader in wireless home security and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. And it also explains why we have the most loyal customers in the business. Just read the reviews - beware the "Free" alarm system!