New Texas law to help nab rogue door-knockers

Thursday, September 3, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas—A new state law went into effect this week aimed at helping law enforcement officials investigate and press charges against door-to-door alarm salespeople who are unlicensed or use deceitful sales practices.

The law addresses the perceived problem that, because most of the summer-sales model companies are based out of state (primarily in Utah), Texas officials who want to investigate whether a sales person is licensed must go through the lengthy process of requesting information from out of state.

“We’re trying to close the gate before the cows get out,” said Rodney Hooker, TBFAA vice president, and president of Dispatch Center LPD, a contract monitoring company here. “What’s happened in the past is that there have been multiple violations [instances] of non-registration of sales people from Utah-based companies,” he said. “By the time [Texas officials] secure the records the summer sales programs [which generally operate from May to August] are done and the sales people are gone.”

The new law, which was passed in May and took effect Sept. 1, requires all alarm companies that do business in Texas to have a qualified manager and registration agent with a physical address inside the state of Texas. The company is also required to keep its personnel records in Texas and make those records available to the Texas Department of Public Safety upon request.

Hooker said the TBFAA worked with the Texas DPS to craft the legislation, which was passed unanimously in Texas.

Further, there is a new “deceptive trade practice” provision in the law that enables consumers to sue an alarm company over contract issues. “If they win the case they’re awarded three-times the value of contract,” Hooker said.

Hooker noted that the TBFAA won’t know until next summer how well the new law works. He said they expect the law will “give DPS the ability to reduce by two-thirds the time it takes to go and look at licensing records.” Hooker is already thinking ahead to the next legislative session, which in Texas takes place every two years. Currently all alarm company managers are required to take a one-hour ethics course to be licensed in Texas. Hooker said the TBFAA is considering pushing legislation that extends the ethics class requirement to all alarm company sales people.