Firstline loses license to operate in CA

June 19, 2008 12:13:33 PM PDT
There's a major new development in a continuing 7 On Your Side investigation.

You may remember the story. A home alarm company told its sales recruits they were competing on a reality TV game show, but it was actually a ploy to pump up sales.

Those promises of fame and fortune went up in smoke. But after our investigation, it looks like that alarm company won't be doing business in California anymore.

Last year, thousands of college students around the country were selling home alarms door to door for Firstline Security of Utah. Why? Because many thought they were reality show contestants and whoever sold the most alarms, would win $1 million.

"That's the reason we got all pumped up. That's the reason I went out a week early," says Arizona student Tyler Heald.

Today, we know nobody won a million dollars. The show never aired and Firstline ended up in bankruptcy, leaving students broke and Bay Area consumers stuck with alarms that won't work.

Lee Faustine of San Rafael was shocked when his alarm went off and nobody responded.

"They told us it would be a direct line to the police department and it's not."

Now, three months after a 7 On Your Side investigation, Firstline has lost its license to operate in California.

"Here in California a lot of people were left high and dry and hurt by this," says Kevin Flanagan from the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Flanagan says following our reports, his agency received 17 complaints serious enough to investigate.

"For example, there was one situation in which a consumer's existing system was removed and a Firstline installer went to put in the new system, but never finished the job," says Flanagan.

Viewers have flooded 7 On Your Side with complaints.

In San Pablo, Ann Hatcher's alarm won't stop blaring unless she unplugs it, and when it does ring, she gets no response.

"I said 'how would you feel if I got broke in and murdered or beat up or raped' or whatever they do?"

That was back in February and Ann still can't get a response, but she sure gets bills for $44 a month, and Firstline refuses to let her out of the contract.

Many consumers tell us door-to-door sales people tricked them into signing up.

"They told us it was going to be a free system and I went 'oh can't beat that price.' It turned out to be a $44 monthly fee," says Lee Faustine.

When 7 On Your Side met with a group of student salesmen, they admitted they were not on the up and up.

"We would take perfectly good systems out of people's houses and put in our crap. We were told to tell people that we were not salespeople and we were actually going to provide them a free home security system," says Arizona college student Devin Schaible.

Firstline denies it taught sales people deceptive practices.But now, without a license, the company wants to sell its California contracts to another alarm company. It did not say which one.

Firstline attorney Adam Affleck says the company's goal is to repair defective systems, sell the California accounts and stay out of the state in the future and will not have any more door-to-door sales. He says there will be no more students dreaming of reality TV.

It's not clear how the loss of an operating license affects existing contracts. It could be different in each case. You may be seeing door-to-door salesmen from other alarm companies this summer. Be careful. This is something you should think about and compare services before signing a contract.


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