APX Alarm plagued by misconduct allegations

Aug. 6, 2008
Authorities nationwide receive complaints about firm's sales tactics

State agencies across the United States have received repeated complaints claiming salespeople from one of Utah's largest security service companies engage in aggressive and deceitful practices to push their product.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office has received two complaints from customers of Provo-based APX Alarm Security Solutions Inc. -- a company that recruits students from local universities to sell and install security systems each summer. Attorney general's office spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the customers claimed the sales reps pushed them into contracting security services.

Guillory said the attorney's office is currently mediating those cases.

Other agencies across the nation have received similar reports of APX Alarm salespeople using pushy sales tactics and deceitful practices. According to a letter from Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections director Boyd Petty, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal issued a cease and desist order to APX Alarm on June 27, stating the marshal has consumer complaints that indicate the company's business practices aren't on the level.

"It is ... alleged that APX Security Solution Inc. salespersons have engaged in false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in that the company's salespersons knowingly provided false information to prospective customers in order to secure the sale of security systems," Petty wrote.

APX Alarm spokesman Nathan Wilcox said they are meeting with officials in Georgia to discuss the concerns. He disputes the letter's characterizations, saying some people tend to think a door-to-door salesperson is "pushy" if he or she merely knocks on the door.

"I'm sure (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)) gets the same complaints about missionaries," Wilcox said. "Or the Jehovah's Witnesses."

APX Alarm recruits its estimated force of 3,500 employees from Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University-Idaho, the University of Utah and Weber State University, Wilcox said. Most of the salespeople are trying to earn money for school, he said, so it's natural for them to be eager and positive.

"The people who sell these alarm systems for our company -- they're salespeople," Wilcox said. "They're going to be enthusiastic about what they're selling."

Wilcox also denied allegations of shady business practices, saying they typically call newly signed customers to ask them about the salesperson they dealt with and to see if they understand and accept the terms of the agreement.

"If someone signed up and felt like they were pressured into the contract, they can cancel it," he added.

But Maryland resident Betty Kline, 77, one of the individuals who filed complaint against APX Alarm, said it's not as easy as Wilcox described. In her case, the salesman came to to her house late in the evening in June. Instead of going to the front door, the salesman approached her husband, Gaither, in the garage.

Since Gaither, 82, has a hearing problem, he led the young man into the house, where Kline said she told him numerous times over the course of an hourlong conversation they weren't interested.

"I just told him, I don't know how many times, I could not afford the security system," she said. "But he just would not give up."

Kline said she finally relented. "Basically, I just signed the paper to get rid of him," she said.

When she tried to cancel service, which is permitted if done within three business days, she discovered the contract was dated May 29, but the salesman visited the Klines in June. Kline said she eventually received a $2,300 bill from APX Alarm.

Alex Dunn, APX's chief operating officer, said they've reviewed the contracts the Klines signed and said they have irrefutable proof the contract wasn't backdated, and Kline tried to get out of the deal a month after the cut off day.

"I think in an attempt to get out of our contract she's smearing our name," he said.

Similar allegations have been reported across the nation, including Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana and Maryland. According to local media, police in Georgia issued a warning to residents to be wary of aggressive alarm salespeople after he heard APX Alarm reps told customers there's no cost to sign up. But after signing up, the customers find they're being charged $40 to $50 a month. Other states have reported similar situations.

In Utah, the company has received 1,005 complaints in the past three years, according to the Utah Better Business Bureau, but 597 of those complaints have been resolved in the last year.

Wilcox said the number total customers APX Alarm deals with, about 150,000 installations per year, outstrips the small number of grievances they receive.

"Any time you have that many customers ... you're gonna have some people who will not think that that's an appropriate way to do (business)," he said. "But we take all (complaints) seriously."

Kline said she's done dealing with APX Alarm and insists she won't pay for a service she neither wants nor needs.

"I'm definitely not paying," she said. "I don't care what they do."

If she could do it over again, Kline said she'd call the police. But the Utah Better Business Bureau offers less drastic advice on its Web site: "Don't be pressured into buying something you don't want or need."

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