BBB Watch: Home security systems
The Better Business Bureau is advising homeowners who are looking to install a home security system to do research first. "It is very important to investigate a home security system with the same care you would any major purchase," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "There are differences in systems. Plus, there are too many door-to-door salespeople selling home security systems that don't always have your best interests at heart."
The BBB advises consumers to do the following when looking to invest in a home security system:
- Choose a professional installer. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company's Business Review with your BBB first at www.bbb.org. The best home security system will accommodate your lifestyle and the specific valuables you want protected. Carefully consider your security requirements and budget. You may also get recommendation from the insurance company that covers your home.
- Contact at least three companies before selecting an installer. Find out if they are properly licensed in your state and if they screen employees before hiring. Make sure to check with the Electronic Security Association website for a list of member companies throughout the United States who have agreed to abide by the National Code of Ethics. Free bids from Accredited Businesses are available with the BBB's Request a Quote feature available on www.bbb.org.
- Ask about all charges up front. Prices for home security systems will vary, based on the level of protection and type of technology used, so be sure to compare bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in the initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring charges. Talk to your insurance agent; some systems may qualify you for a discount on homeowner's premiums.
- Know the ins and outs of your contract. If your alarm system will be monitored, either by your installing company or by a third-party monitoring center, find out the length of the contract. Typically, monitoring contracts are between two to five years in length. What is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided? Can you cancel the contract? What are your rights if your monitoring company is purchased or acquired by another alarm company? These are the types of questions you need to consider before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract.
- Insist that the installer "walk" you through your system until you fully understand how it works. This will prevent the most common problem: false alarms. False alarms are an indicator of the quality of the alarm installation and user education. Ask for a complete inspection of your property and an itemized written estimate. Review the sales contract closely to ensure you understand exactly what equipment and protection you will be provided.
For more information, visit www.bbb.org.