Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that one of the largest alarm monitoring companies operating in Oregon has agreed to pay $125,000 to the Department of Justice and modified its business practices in compliance with a court action filed today in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, which admits no law violation, is Protection One Alarm Monitoring, Inc. of Irving, Texas.
"More than 170 consumers were concerned enough about Protection One's business practices to file complaints in our office," Myers said. "With this agreement, Protection One not only will modify its operations but it will be responsive to the problems of present and future complainants."
The number of complaints filed with the Department of Justice against Protection One increased dramatically in 1999 and an investigation was opened. During that time, the company expanded its operations in Oregon and purchased the rights to alarm monitoring contracts owned by other alarm companies.
Investigators found the company violated the Unlawful Trade Practices Act by continuing to bill consumers long after they had officially cancelled their contracts; by failing to provide timely alarm repair service and then refusing consumer requests for contract cancellations; by misrepresenting the length of contract terms; and by assuming contracts from other firms without insuring that consumers' alarms were connected to Protection One's monitoring system.
During the course of the investigation, new management assumed control of the company and immediately was responsive to the concerns of the Attorney General.
Under the settlement, Protection One agrees to continue to improve its customer service practices and pay $75,000 to create an arbitration fund in support of any future consumer claims. Arbitration will be available at no cost to consumers with good-faith claims of less than $5,000. The company claims it will make every effort to solve consumer problems and avoid arbitration with the more than 30,000 active customers in Oregon
Protection One also paid $50,000 to the Department of Justice consumer protection and education fund.
Attorney General Myers suggests the following when shopping for a home or business security system or an alarm monitoring company:
Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations.
Call the Attorney General's consumer hotline and the Better Business Bureau to check on complaints.
Don't buy from a company selling door-to-door. Before buying, consumers should get at least three written bids and make sure the companies have the correct state and local licenses.
Contact the Oregon or National Burglar and Fire Alarm Associations for a list of member companies. Members subscribe to a voluntary code of ethics and quality standards.
Understand all contract provisions before signing. Look for sections covering automatic contract renewal or requirement of a written cancellation notice due 30 days in advance of the contract renewal date.
Consumers wanting information on consumer issues may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Information online is at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org