Top 5 Complaints Of Home Security Customers

We explain the top 5 home security complaints and provide possible solutions.

Over our ten years in the home security industry, and from the many emails we’ve received from our visitors, we’ve noticed that some consumer complaints about alarm systems seem to come up much more frequently than others. We’ve listed the most common home security customer complaints here, in order of frequency. We’ve also included possible solutions and explanations for each issue, if possible:

5.“My Alarm Went Off But Nobody Called Me!”

Some customers report setting off their alarm accidentally and disarming it, then patiently waiting for a call from the monitoring station that never comes.

Possible Solutions And/Or Explanation:

Often times, this is the result of a misunderstanding. Most alarm companies have a “grace period” to reduce false alarms. For example, if you have a 30 second delay on your front door and a 30 second “grace period”, you will have a total of 60 seconds from the time you first open the door to input your code. If you don’t reach the keypad or enter the wrong code during the first 30 seconds, your alarm will activate and the monitoring station will receive your signal.

After this, you will have an additional 30 seconds to input a valid code. As long as you do, the monitoring personnel will consider this a “cancellation” that does not require a verbal confirmation. Anything over 60 seconds will mean a phone call is necessary (these times may vary slightly depending on the alarm company). Be sure that you thoroughly understand how to use your system properly when it is installed or activated and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure.

4. “I Own My Alarm System, But It Can’t Be Monitored By Any Other Company”

Some home security customers who wish to switch their monitoring service may find out (after it’s too late) that their alarm equipment is “proprietary” and/or “locked out”. If this is the case, switching alarm companies will require a brand new system, or payment of a service fee to have the system “unlocked”.

Possible Solutions And/Or Explanation:

These methods are quite common in the industry. “Proprietary” means that although you may own the equipment, it can only be monitored by the company that installed it. If your system is hardwired, you may still be able to use some of the peripheral devices (i.e. the door and window sensors, motion detectors, siren, etc.) but will need to purchase a new control panel.

“Locked out” means that the equipment can be monitored by just about any alarm company, but needs to be “unlocked” by the company that installed it. This involves a very short service call: the technician will use the alarm company’s “installer code” to enter the programming mode and unlock your system, so that other alarm companies can access the programming features. An alarm company will never give you their installer code, as many use the same code for all of their installations. Giving you this code would present a critical security risk for them. Before signing your service contract, be absolutely certain that your system will NOT be proprietary or locked out.

3. “The Ad Says the Alarm System is FREE, Yet My Quote is For Hundreds of Dollars”

We’ve all seen the ads for the “FREE” alarm system. But by the time we get the quote from the salesperson, it involves investing many hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in equipment.

Possible Solutions And/Or Explanation:

The “free” alarm system is a classic bait and switch scheme. The majority of these systems are extremely basic (i.e. two door and window sensors and one motion sensor) and do not provide adequate security for the average home. In most cases, you will need to add more equipment for an effective alarm system which of course, isn’t free. For more information you can read our post Are “Free” Home Security System Deals Real?

2. “The Police Took Over an Hour to Show Up”

Some customers have reported getting a call at work from their alarm company, and rushing home to discover the police had not even showed up yet. What’s the point of getting an alarm if the police can’t even arrive in a timely fashion?

Possible Solutions And/Or Explanation:

If your alarm is brand new, your alarm company may use what’s referred to as a trial or “burn” period of a week or more after the initial system activation. During this period, any signals received from your alarm will be received by the monitoring center but the police will not be dispatched. Some alarm companies employ this technique to give new customers an opportunity to get accustomed to operating their new security system without the risk of multiple false alarms. Ask your alarm company if they employ this method. If so, you can request that no trial period be used so your system is active immediately. You should also know that some police departments will only respond to “two zone” alarms. For example, if a door activates your alarm, there must be at least one other device that also goes into alarm (i.e. motion sensor, glassbreak, etc) along with it. Remember, not all jurisdictions have this policy.

As far as actual police response times, it is nearly impossible to judge how quickly they will respond to your alarm signal. Response time can depend on many factors: time of day, location of cruiser when they receive the call, your false alarm history; however, in most cases police should arrive within minutes once they’ve been made aware. There are many critical reasons to have your system monitored; police give priority to monitored systems, you may receive insurance discounts, and you get the benefit of true peace of mind knowing professionals are monitoring your home.

1. “My Alarm Contract Automatically Renews”

This is easily the most common complaint seen on our review pages. Most alarm companies have an automatic renewal clause in their monitoring and service contract.  This simply means that your contract will be renewed (usually for 12 months, although it can range from 1 month to 3 years) unless you you provide written notice of your request to cancel your service. If you need to cancel your home security contract before the initial term expires, you may have to pay a cancellation fee, which is typically 75% to 100% of the remaining balance on your contract. For more information on the policies of top providers visit Home Security Cancellation Policies.

Possible Solutions And/Or Explanation:

Before: Go with a company that has a reputation for providing excellent customer service and doesn’t include a long-term auto-renewal clause in their contract like Frontpoint. You can learn more about our top recommended security provider by reading our Frontpoint Security review.
Companies with strong customer service reputations are sometimes more flexible and may accommodate a shorter contract length or allow you to end your service agreement early without penalty. Regardless of who you select, it is important you read the service contract before you sign it.

After: If you are ending your service, don’t count on a verbal confirmation from a customer service representative that your contract has been cancelled.  You must send them your cancellation request in writing (usually 30 to 60 days before the end of the contract).  Don’t send your letter by fax, email or regular mail, always use registered mail that requires a signature from the recipient.  This may cost a few dollars more, but it is definitely worth it. There will be no argument from their end as to whether they received your request or not.

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