Massachusetts installers battle Comcast, Verizon in court
SHARON, Mass.—A Massachusetts security systems installers’ group has taken Comcast and Verizon to court, charging the cableco and telecom lack the required state licenses to do security alarm-related work in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association (MSCA), a trade association based here, is asking a judge to find the two new security industry entrants are violating state law and ban them from selling, installing and monitoring security systems in the state. The MSCA contends Comcast and Verizon are endangering the public by having unlicensed personnel do security systems work, and also infringing on the rights of the group’s members.
The MSCA says all its members who do security systems work have a state electrical license, have passed a criminal background check and work for companies that are licensed by the Department of Public Safety. Comcast and Verizon don’t meet such licensing requirements in their security systems work, the group alleges.
However, Comcast and Verizon want the judge to throw out the lawsuit—first filed in state court this summer but then transferred to U.S. District Court in Boston—saying it doesn’t apply to them for a variety of reasons.
Comcast in court documents says it’s exempt from the licensure laws that MSCA cites governing electrical security systems because its professionally-monitored Xfinity Home offering uses IP technology and wireless connections to security sensors, “and does not involve any electrical installation whatsoever.” Comcast released its offering in Houston in 2010 and has been rapidly expanding to other markets nationwide since then.
And Verizon says its Home Monitoring and Control service is a do-it-yourself system, and customers, not the company, are responsible for installing the easy, plug-in equipment. The offering, launched nationwide in 2011, is not professionally monitored and Verizon in the lawsuit calls it “a lifestyle service,” stressing that “HMC is not a security or alarm system.”
Additionally, both Verizon and Comcast assert that the MSCA has no authority to bring a lawsuit against them over licensing, because only the state and municipalities have the authority to enforce the licensing laws.
In fact, it turns out that at least two municipal wiring inspectors have “issued cease-and-desist orders to Comcast relating to their security work,” according to the lawsuit.
Those citations were slated to be heard by the Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians on Monday of this week. But the hearing on that administrative matter has been continued to a later date, possibly early in September, David Fine, an attorney representing the MSCA, told Security Systems News.
Because the issues before the board are related to those raised in the lawsuit, the MSCA, Comcast and Verizon have all agreed to put the lawsuit on hold until the board issues a decision on the citations and any appeal of that decision is fully resolved.
Fine said that his client declined to discuss the merits of the case with SSN because it is pending. Philadelphia-based Comcast also told SSN it has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Attorneys for Verizon, which is based in Basking Ridge, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment before SSN’s deadline.
In its lawsuit, the MSCA claims that “the performance of security systems work by Comcast and Verizon has caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm to MSCA members and to the public, due to the life safety and security concerns associated with this work. The Legislature has enacted multiple licensure requirements to ensure that those performing this work are educated, competent and trustworthy. In bypassing all of these legislative requirements, Comcast and Verizon are causing substantial and irreparable harm.”
The MSCA wants the court to “enjoin Comcast and Verizon from advertising, selling, contracting for, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing and monitoring” security and fire alarm systems in the state.