ESA unveils door-knocking code of ethics

Association announces zero tolerance policy for offenders
Thursday, March 25, 2010

LAS VEGAS—Saying the Electronic Security Association has “zero tolerance” for dishonest sales tactics by door-to-door sales people, Merlin Guilbeau, ESA executive director, yesterday unveiled a new door-knocking code of ethics and standards of conduct for its members.

Guilbeau announced the code during a press conference held here on the first day of ISC West. The code is effective now and members who flout the code risk being expelled from ESA, he said.

The Better Business Bureau received 3,000 complaints about alarm companies in 2009, up from 2,100 in 2008. Of 3,900 industries tracked by the BBB, the alarm industry was 70th in the number of complaints received. This is considerably worse than 2008, when the industry was 93rd worst.

 “We believe the code will greatly impact the image of the alarm industry with the public,” Guilbeau said.

Guilbeau emphasized that, “this is not ESA knocking door-to-door sales. This is a model that’s proven to be highly effective and is practiced by many members.”

How will the code be enforced?

Guilbeau said ESA would look to individual companies to enforce the code. When there are problems not taken care of by the companies, complaints should be handled by local and state government consumer agencies. “We are not a policing organization,” he emphasized. In situations where complaints are not resolved by the company or local governmental group, a formal complaint may be filed with ESA and may result in a member being expelled.

Unethical sales tactics by so-called “rogue sales people” selling alarm systems door to door made headlines last summer when ADT and Monitronics sued a number of sales people. At that time, ADT general counsel David Bleisch and others called for a door knocking code of ethics.

Representatives from eight ESA member companies signed the code “in a show of support”: Shawn Brenchly, APX Alarm; Jay Hauhn, ADT; Steve Zolman, Pinnacle Security; Jennifer Holloway, Protection One; Dan Garrido, Broadview Security; Dom D’Ascoli, Smoky Mountain Systems and incoming ESA president; Mike Miller, Moon Security and ESA president; and Mitch Clark of Monitronics.

The conference included a video testimony by Mary Jackson of Richfield, Minn., 87, who talked about how a pushy door-to-door salesman convinced her to replace her existing ADT alarm with a system from another company.

Asked what company was responsible for selling Jackson the system, Guilbeau said he did not know, but that they were not a member of ESA. Jackson was able to get out of the contract with the company only after several phone calls and letters.

One ESA member said they thought the code needed to be expanded. Alex Dunn, APX COO, told Security Systems News that there exists a potential loophole for ESA members who purchase accounts from companies that are not enforcing a code of ethics.

The new code of ethics and standards of conduct include: Enhanced identification: sales representatives must carry photo ID cards and clearly state who they work for when making a sales call; more respect for consumers: when requested by a consumer, a sales representative shall immediately discontinue a presentation and leave the premises; no false accusations about competition: sales representatives may not make any false statements about competing organizations; improved customer contract requirements: written materials, which clearly and conspicuously disclose all terms and conditions, must be presented to customers when closing the sale; better refund policies: prior to the sale of any product or service, sales representatives must disclose all termination fees and must honor all refunds in accordance with their company’s policies.

In a prepared statement, Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said: “These more stringent rules will encourage every player in the industry to bring integrity and honesty to the forefront of their customer service and sales practices.” The BBB “hears from thousands of homeowners every year who feel pressured, manipulated and misled by a door-to-door alarm sales representative and trust in the industry as a whole is being undermined by these rogue reps.” For a copy of ESA’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, visit

Formerly the NBFAA, ESA represents 2,800 member companies.