Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of a settlement agreement with a Gresham home security company for allegedly violating several state consumer protection laws. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance is Universal Security Alarms-West Inc. (USAW). The agreement admits no violation of law.
The Oregon Department of Justice received 14 complaints against the company in late 2002 concerning its marketing practices on the telephone. Investigators found that USAW not only failed to register as a telemarketer with the Oregon No Call administrator but contacted consumers who were timely registered and protected from telemarketing calls under the Oregon No Call. The company worked out of locations in Sandy and Gresham but marketed the alarm systems throughout the state.
The company also did not satisfy the "30 second disclosure" requirement by telling the consumer in the first 30 seconds of the telemarketing call, the caller's name, and the company's name, explain what they are selling and what it will cost and ask if the consumer is interested. If the consumer's reply is negative, the caller must immediately end the conversation.
Justice investigators also found that the company required an up-front $124 installation fee. Numerous consumers attempted to cancel the service and requested a refund under the "three-day cooling off" clause in their contracts but were turned down by the company.
Finally, USAW contractors installed alarm systems without being properly licensed or bonded by the state Construction Contractors Board (CCB) nor were they authorized to perform alarm system installations.
Under the assurance, USAW agreed to comply with all Oregon laws and during the course of solicitations, explain the total costs and fees for alarm installation and monitoring. The company also will advise potential customers of any local alarm ordinances and related fees, use only contractors that are licensed and bonded through the CCB and are qualified to perform the installations, require contractors to obtain all applicable permits and inspections for alarm installations, and maintain an internal "do not call" list and subscribe to Oregon's No Call Law program.
The company paid Justice $2,500 for its consumer protection and education fund. The individual consumer complaints were satisfied during the course of the investigation.
"Consumers should never purchase a home security system over the telephone or from a door-to-door salesperson without first researching the product and the company selling it," Myers explained. "Talk to experts about what prevents burglaries in your neighborhood because it may not be just a home security system. Prevention could include a large barking dog and an effective Neighborhood Watch program."
Attorney General Myers suggests the following when shopping for a home security alarm system:
Ask local law enforcement about its crime prevention programs and any suggestions in "burglar proofing" your home
Check with local law enforcement regarding their policy on responding to home alarm systems
Find at least three systems to compare product, installation charges and monitoring. Get information in writing.
Ask for references and call them.
Check for local alarm ordinances and related fees.
Ask if the company's installers are licensed and bonded by the Construction Contractors Board.
Contact the Oregon Burglar and Fire Alarm Association for a list of member companies. Members subscribe to a voluntary code of ethics and quality standards.
Ask if the company is "IQ certified" by the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. The association endorses companies that voluntarily meet higher installation standards in its Installation Quality program.
Call the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau for consumer complaints.
Consumers wanting information on the consumer protection laws in Oregon 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. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org