Millions of homeowners seek to secure their homes, families, and belongings with a home security system (often called a burglar alarm). Better Business Bureau has received hundreds of thousands of inquiries from consumers researching security system companies.
BBB has also received many complaints from consumers about less-than-ethical companies attempting to get them to switch their alarm service. This is often done by a door-to-door salesman claiming to be the consumer’s current provider and offering an “upgrade” or by 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 to be protected. Carefully consider your security requirements and budget. You may also get recommendations from your homeowners insurance agency 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 and the Canadian Security Association 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 insurance 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. 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.
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 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 a business’s rating, how they’ve handled complaints, as well as customer reviews and other information available in the BBB Business Profile.
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 (FTC). In Canada, check out Industry Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs.
When shopping for a burglar alarm, it is important to research the companies you’re considering. We hope these tips help you find the right home security system for your family.
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