Home alarm companies sending sales teams to Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Home alarm companies are sending squads of sales people into Bay Area neighborhoods - trying to get you to switch from your company to theirs. But should you go along with the sales pitch?

North Bay resident Yolanda Jackson says she wishes she'd never opened the door.

"It brought nothing but stress and I thought I'd never be able to get out of the contract,'' Jackson said.

She was a longtime customer of ADT home security when a team from Vivint SmartHome descended on her neighborhood last August.

"They were knocking on all the doors, and a salesman told me everyone in the neighborhood was leaving ADT and going to his company,'' Jackson said. "So I thought, oh OK maybe we should do it too."

Jackson says she was more enticed by the offer: four security cameras posted around the house, and in the doorbell, connected to the internet.

"You could go on your phone or go online no matter where you were and see what was going on the cameras,'' she said.

So, she signed a five year contract with Vivint. It was only later that she and her husband realized it would cost $82 per month-about $20 more than they were paying ADT.

"We said wow this is a lot but we're in it so let's just see how it goes.''

It didn't go well.

She says the doorbell camera kept going off-line, as did three other cameras around the house. Not only that, sometimes the doorbell didn't ring, so they didn't know when someone came to the door.

Jackson complained the company didn't ask for a passcode when the alarm went off by mistake.

"They would just call and say 'you're OK right? ' '' Yolanda recalls . "We could have been a burglar or a somebody beating somebody and they wouldn't know it."

Every time the cameras went out, Jackson would call Vivint to fix it. She spent hours at a time trying to troubleshoot problems that kept recurring. She says the company required her to try to work out problems on the phone before it would send out a technician.

"They were literally driving me crazy,'' Jackson said. "My anxiety level kept going up, the many calls to them, the many times troubleshooting on the phone. I'd call them and my call would get hung up. They wouldn't call back. I'd call them and then I'd have to talk to a whole new person and start all over again."

Finally she asked to cancel her contract. Vivint said she'd have to pay for the full five years.

"If I wanted to get out of the contract I'd have to pay them $2,400,'' she recalls. "I said no, I'm not paying you $2400 for something that isn't working. "

She contacted ABC and the 7 On Your Side team contacted Vivint. It tells us her system had problems because she didn't have enough Internet bandwidth to support all those cameras. The company said she refused to upgrade her Internet service or remove two of the cameras to make it work properly.

When asked why the technicians didn't anticipate the need for a higher Internet speed, Vivint said it was tested and worked properly upon installation. A spokesperson suggested that Wi-Fi in the area may be overloaded and causing the problem.

Vivint said: "We responded to every request from Yolanda and did all we could to get her system to work properly, including sending technicians to her home, but she didn't want to upgrade her Internet service to maintain consistent bandwidth to support all the cameras. We also offered to remove a couple of the cameras and reimburse for any previous expenses, but she preferred to cancel."

And Vivint not only let her out of her contract, it refunded all the money she'd paid so far.

"I was flabbergasted by that,'' Jackson said. "I was like wow that's amazing."

Vivint also said: "We apologize for Yolanda's frustration and have resolved this situation to her satisfaction.

"Seven On Your Side was so -- oh, I can't thank you enough,'' Jackson said. "You can't imagine how I feel. It almost makes me cry."

The takeaway: When a salesman comes to your door urging you to switch alarm companies, don't act too quickly. First, make sure the salesman has a license as required by law - which he did in this case. Then don't sign on the spot! Take a few days to read the contract, understand all the terms and reflect on whether it's a good system for you.

Click here for more stories, photos, and videos from M ichael Finney and 7 on Your Side.
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