Deceptive sales practices knocked at ESX

Solicited Baltimore residents share their stories
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Monday, July 13, 2015

BALTIMORE—Diane Pruitt, a resident here, recently had two young men knock on her door, lie to her about her security system and which company they were from, and persistently tried to sell her a different system.

Derrick Layton, a retired Baltimore police officer had a similar encounter, even after he told the solicitors they were dealing with a police officer and showed them his badge.

Pruitt and Layton shared their experiences at ESX 2015, held here, during a news conference about deceptive sales practices.

“It only takes a few small companies … to damage the trust for consumers in the entire industry,” said Casey Callaway of the Better Business Bureaus.

Trust is imperative for the security industry, said Jay Hauhn, CSAA executive director, and scams have a negative impact. He cited Security Systems News’ August 2014 News Poll, in which a vast majority—82 percent—of respondents called these sales practices problematic.

Pruitt, the Baltimore resident, said the salesmen who came to her door lied about being from ADT. They also told Pruitt that any crook could tell from her ADT yard sign what type of system she had and how to get into it.

The men still persistently tried to convince Pruitt to change her system, even after admitting to not being from ADT and being pushed out the door.

A salesperson told Layton, the police officer, that his system could be accessed through the salesperson’s tablet—though this claim was never backed up. The solicitor also called ADT fraudulent. This salesperson kept up the hard sell, even after Layton showed the solicitor his police badge.

Jay Hauhn emphasized that there are many honest door-knocking companies, who do not use deceptive sales practices.

Layton said the dishonest companies "are taking advantage of people, and hurting them. ... These companies need to be shut down,” Layton said. “All this is is a scam, and there's nothing that can be done unless people make a phone call [and report it]."

Callaway of the Better Business Bureau shared five tips for consumers.

The presentation featured a video testimony from a military family recalling their encounter with scamming practices, including misrepresenting ADT and very high-pressure tactics.  

Marshall Marinace, president of ESA, shared his hope that ESA members will make the ESA Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct a part of their companies. This document provides security companies with guidelines on ethical practices.

David Bleisch, ADT general counsel, said that complaints have doubled in the past year, but he declined to reveal the number of complaints.

ADT offers up to a $5,000 reward—down from $25,000 last year—for whistleblowers who report deceptive sales practices that result in convictions.

“Fraud begins at the front door,” Bleisch told SSN in an earlier interview. Solicitors often tell homeowners that their security company has gone out of business, that they’re there to upgrade the existing system, or they claim to be from the alarm manufacturer.

“The scams are endless. People are sometimes getting double-billed and are sometimes left without any security protection,” Bleich told SSN.

“We have no problem with door-knocking, the problem is with people lying,” he said.

“If we as an industry step up, this won’t happen. Trusted companies will stamp it out. We’re all going to work very hard on that,” Bleisch said.