KSL investigates door-to-door alarm system sales

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Debbie Dujanovic reporting
Produced by Kelly Just
Home alarm systems are one of the most popular ways to protect your family. The U.S. Department of Justice says one in every nine American households uses one.

You may have heard that the mere sight of a security company sign is enough to scare away some burglars. But a KSL 5 Eyewitness News investigation discovered these same signs may also be attracting trouble.

Drive around most neighborhoods and you can easily spot the houses where homeowners have spent good money on an alarm system. The signs that come with those security packages have customers around the country, like Randy Hicks, sounding the alarm.

"People think they're safe and they're not," Hicks said.

Marjorie Hicks, Indiana resident
Marjorie Hicks, Indiana resident

Hicks' troubles were not caused by a break-in. They began when a salesperson spotted the security sign at his mother, Marjorie's, house and came calling with a special offer.

St. George resident Edward Bishop explained the offer his salesman made. "They said because we were an advertising location, the sign in front, we qualified for an upgrade to our system," he said.

In Indiana, the Hicks and Brooks families say they too were told they needed a system upgrade, and that it would be free of charge.

"That's the first thing he told me before he got to working on it," explained Marjorie Hicks. "'Now this won't cost you a penny.'"

Instead of that upgrade, all these people say they were misled into signing a brand new contract with a Utah security company.

"We let them in, and they upgraded the system," said Bill Brooks. "But they deceived us and lied to us."

All these families ended up with two alarm bills -- one for the system they already had, and another from Provo-based Icon Security.

How could a knock on the door become such a big headache? When these customers heard the salesman say the word "upgrade," they believed he was talking about the contract they already had and accepted the offer. Before they knew it, they started getting bills from another security company for $30 to $40 a month, and for the next three years.

The Indiana residents say a salesman told each of them that Icon Security had bought out their current alarm companies, APEX and Monitronics.

"He said that they had bought out Apex, our alarm system," recalled Eva Brooks, "and that they were upgrading everybody's alarm. And that they needed to come in and upgrade all of our stuff."

KSL investigates door-to-door alarm system sales

But there were no buyouts.

Utah resident, Edward Bishop heard a different pitch, that the sign in his St. George yard made him an advertiser. He believed he was being rewarded for that with an upgrade, so he let the salesperson install a free sensor and leave two medical monitors.

What he Edward didn't realize? That salesperson was not with Apex at all. He had just signed a new contract with Icon Security. When the surprise bill came, Edward called Icon.

Edward said he asked, "What's going on here? I didn't sign up for them. And they said, 'Oh yes you did.'"

We uncovered a federal lawsuit in which an Icon Security competitor accused the Icon Security sales team of making up similar stories all over the country to try and win new customers. A federal judge ordered Icon Security to change such sales practices.

Late today we asked Icon Director Val Gregory about that federal lawsuit filed by Monitronics. Gregory said Icon had negotiated a compromise that includes more detailed training for sales representatives and severe consequences for dishonest practices.

"We have investigated any matter that Monitronics has brought to our attention, and we resolved that matter," Gregory said.

Edward Bishop, St. George, Utah
Edward Bishop, St. George, Utah

As for those customer complaints, Gregory responded: "Our representatives are very integrous. They are very honest. It is the rare exceptions, the very rare exceptions, that we really have to address and act on very quickly."

Gregory continued, "If it's brought to our attention that there may have been a misrepresentation, even if it's brought to our attention that there may have been a misunderstanding with respect to a customer, we treat no customer differently. We will investigate those matters."

After Icon investigated, the company let the Hicks' contract go. As for the Bishops, Icon says phone records show Mr. Bishop agreed to sign up. But the company has decided to cancel this contract and issue him a refund.

We also asked Icon to comment on this new development. This afternoon, state investigators issued a 17-count administrative citation against the company, for misrepresentation. Icon could face fines totaling more than $42,000. Icon said it hadn't had a chance to review the state citation.

We have heard of other alarm companies using similar practices to get customers. How to avoid it? The Utah Alarm System Board warns you should never make a spur-of-the-moment decision. And if you do sign something, Utah law gives you three days to carefully read that contract and cancel if necessary.

E-mail: iteam@ksl.com

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