BBB Tip: Buying a Home Security System

  
     

Millions of homeowners seek to secure their homes, families and belongings with a home security system (also called a burglar alarm). In fact, last year Better Business Bureau received nearly 600,000 inquiries from consumers researching alarm system companies.

BBB also received a lot of complaints from consumers about less than ethical companies attempting to get them to switch their alarm service, often by knocking on the door and claiming to be their current provider offering an “upgrade,” or saying their current alarm service is out-of-business or was sold to the door-to-door salesperson’s business. 

Make sure the company you choose is credible by searching on bbb.org and following these tips:

Choose a reputable business. The best home security system will accommodate your lifestyle and specific valuables you want protected. Carefully consider your security requirements and budget. You may also get recommendations from your homeowners or renters insurance carrier. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company with BBB first. 

Contact at least three companies before making a selection. Find out if they are properly licensed in your jurisdiction and ask if the company runs a criminal background check on employees prior to hiring. You can also look up companies on the websites of the Electronic Security Association (esaweb.org) and the Canadian Security Association (canasa.org) to make sure they have pledged to uphold industry standards.

Ask about all charges up front. Prices for home security systems will vary based on the level of protection and type of technology used. Be sure to compare bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in the initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring fees. Also, talk to your insurance agent; some systems may qualify you for a discount on homeowners premiums. 

Know the ins and outs of your contract. If your alarm system will be monitored, either by your installing company or by a third-party monitoring center, find out the length of the contract. Typically, monitoring contracts are two to five years in length. 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? These are the types of questions you need to consider before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract.

Here are some “red flags” to watch out for: 

High pressure sales tactics. A reputable seller will give you time to think through the deal and will make an appointment to return at a later date. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics; take the time to do your research and make an informed decision.

Deals that sound too good to be true. Some sellers might offer an extremely good price for their products or services. The adage holds true that you get what you pay for and many people have been quickly disappointed when the products didn’t live up to the hype or the company did a shoddy job.

Lack of company identification. Any legitimate salesperson will be able to provide you with positive identification for both themselves and their company. Also beware of sellers who don’t appear to have any ties to the community. Itinerant workers often enter and exit an area quickly, and may not deliver everything promised.

A poor rating with BBB. Always check with BBB first to see how many complaints the company has received and how they’ve handled them, as well as other information available in the BBB Business Review. 

And what happens if you change your mind after the sale? In the United States, the “cooling off” rule is three-days for door-to-door sales. In Canada, the cooling off period varies by province.

For more information on federal laws on door-to-door sales: In the United States, check out the Federal Trade Commission. In Canada, check out Industry Canada’s Office of Consumer Information.