When your alarm company goes door-to-door, you should be alarmed.
Catherine Donovan should have been alarmed.
But the bells and whistles didn't go off when an APX Alarm salesperson knocked on her door.
"They were really, really assertive with their sales tactics," says the East Memphis resident. "You know, 'You really need this alarm system and you need it today.'"
May 7, Donovan signed a $2,000 contract with the home security company based out of Provo, Utah. Nathan Wilcox, the company's general counsel, says the majority of its business is done through "direct sales," or door-to-door solicitations, because he says it's the "most effective method" of selling alarm systems.
"By selling residential systems directly to the customer at the customer's home, APX Alarm is able to both assess the security needs of the customer and design a security system to meet the customer's needs efficiently and effectively," Wilcox says in an e-mail to the Action News 5 Investigators.
There's only one problem. Donovan's contract was effective May 7, seven days after APX Alarm's license to work in Tennessee -- EXPIRED.
According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance, APX Alarm's Tennessee license expired April 30. The department's Alarm Systems Contractors Board has received five complaints about the company since 2006. They include an alleged breach of contract (closed to customer's satisfaction), salesmen misrepresenting themselves as Honeywell employees (closed with a letter of warning to APX Alarm), contract dispute (closed to customer's satisfaction), unregistered employee(s) (closed with recommendation of warning letter to APX Alarm) and a concern about a family's safety (open and under investigation).
"All of my uneasiness was confirmed," says Donovan, who has now issued a letter requesting that APX Alarm cancel her contract. "As far as I am concerned, it should be null and void since we signed it on a date since their license had expired."
Wilcox explained that his company had filed the appropriate paperwork and paid the fees to renew its license, but the alarm contractors board had questions about 25 of the 100 employees the company listed as active employees in Tennessee. It turns out 23 of the 25 were no longer employed with APX Alarm. The company had to send in renewal fees for those employees still working and termination notices for those no longer working. Wilcox says that effectively delayed APX Alarm's license renewal, causing it to be listed as "Delinquent" in Tennessee.
"As recently as May 22, 2008, the alarm board approved the registration for sales representatives to sell alarm systems in Tennessee for APX Alarm," says Wilcox in his e-mail.
Kelly Brockman, spokesperson for the alarm board, says the board approved APX Alarm's renewal May 30, 23 days after Donovan signed her contract.
The lesson here is you should always research ANY company with your state's regulatory boards and the Mid-South Better Business Bureau. APX Alarm is actually a member of the BBB in good standing with a 'Satisfactory' rating.
Tennessee is one of the few states which actually has an agency dedicated to regulating home security companies. You can link to the Tennessee Alarm Systems Contractors Board right here: http://tennessee.gov/commerce/boards/asc/.
In Mississippi, you can file complaints against alarm companies with the state attorney general's consumer affairs division (http://www.ago.state.ms.us/index.php/sections/consumer/complaints). You can also check with the Mississippi Alarm Association at http://www.msalarm.org/ to see if a company is a member of the trade organization.
In Arkansas, file complaints with the state attorney general's office at http://www.ag.state.ar.us/consumers_protection.html or check with the Arkansas Security Alarm Association at http://www.arkansasalarm.org/consumers/index.htm.