Conn. AG sues Safe Home

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ROCKY HILL, Conn.--Safe Home Security owner David Roman, who is being sued by the Connecticut Attorney General for violations including illegal renewal of contracts, said he "thought he was acting within the law and I still feel we were acting within the law" when he automatically renewed and enforced alarm contracts that he believed fell outside of this state's 2004 "Evergreen" law.
On Aug. 2, Conn. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that he was suing Safe Home Security, Safe Home Monitoring and Roman for "violating contract renewal laws, continuing to bill customers who canceled or decided not to renew their service and harassing them when they rightly refused to pay," according to a statement. It also charges Roman with installing and failing to fix faulty equipment and violating state home improvement laws.
The lawsuit was filed at the request of Conn. Dept of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell.
The Evergreen law, passed in October 2004, says customers must be given ample notification (15-60 days) that their contracts are about to be renewed, and that customers have the right to cancel contracts within that time frame, according the Attorney General's statement.
Commissioner Farrell in a statement said, "Safe Home Security's customers were denied some basic consumer rights regarding automatic renewal contracts." Farrell also said Safe Home failed to return customer calls and show up at customer appointments, refused to repair or replace systems that did not function properly and failed to honor warranties and guarantees. Claudette Carveth, Farrell's spokesperson, said in the past five years the Dept. of Consumer Protection and the AG's office received 80 complaints about Safe Home not honoring a cancellation request. Asked if this represents a significant number of complaints, Carveth said it does. "It seems to show a pattern of behavior toward the customers," she added.
Roman said that he and his attorney, Robert Cassalle, believe the contract renewals were legal. "The law was passed three years ago, in October 2004. [It's my understanding] that contracts signed after that date are subject to the law. In the interim, we continued to enforce contracts that were signed prior to the enactment of that law," Roman said. "We believe those contracts [signed before Oct. 2004] are not subject to the law because they were signed before the law was passed."
"According to our counsel we were within our rights. According to the AG: they don't agree. Therein lies the dispute," Roman said.
Regarding equipment problems, Roman said these were isolated instances: "We had some issues with transmitters being recalled, but nothing serious."
As far as violating the state's home improvement laws, Roman said he believed his workers were covered under electrical licenses that they possessed.
Roman said his company is eager to resolve these issues and will be meeting with the AG's office. "We want to be good corporate citizens, make customers happy and make the Attorney General's office happy and we are entering into negotiations to resolve this conflict and their interpretation of the law versus ours."
Roman said that Evergreen laws are being passed in other states, as well, and it will take some time for companies to figure out how to comply with these laws.
Walter Clark, president of the Connecticut Alarm and Systems Integrators Association, confirmed that Roman is a member of CASIA. Asked if CASIA alerted its membership about the Evergreen Law, he said it had. The new law was featured in "several publications of our newsletter to make sure our members know this law was passed and that everyone needed to be in compliance," he said.