McIntosh says she tried to research Pinnacle Security online while waiting on the late-night installation, and she discovered a plethora of negative reviews and legal actions against the Orem, Utah-based company, which has an overall C rating on Angie’s List, based on 29 reviews from members nationwide.
Pinnacle Security’s paid more than $2 million since 2009 to settle claims from governmental agencies in nine states that alleged deceptive sales tactics, such as claiming your existing security company went out of business and they’ve taken over the accounts; providing misleading cost information; and failure to honor cancellation requests.
“These guys were typical of a fly-by-night company,” McIntosh says. “They aren’t from San Antonio, there’s no San Antonio office. It was like a team that travels across the country. My stomach was in knots,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do.” Multiple calls seeking comment from Jason Knapp, Pinnacle’s chief financial officer, and Stuart Dean, Pinnacle’s vice president of communications, were not returned.
Pinnacle’s not the only Utah-based alarm company generating complaints about aggressive door-to-door sales. Vivint, formerly known as APX Alarm Security Systems, has also paid about $675,000 to settle similar claims from governmental agencies in at least four states since 2010 for similar tactics. The nationwide company is highly rated on the List, based on 80 reviews, but it’s excluded from category and keyword searches after landing in the Penalty Box for not responding to two members’ complaints in Washington state and Maryland.
Vivint spokeswoman Lisa Davis says the company doesn’t condone aggressive behavior by their door-to-door salespeople, which she says has diversified in recent years, but includes many college students from nearby Brigham Young University. “That would not be part of how we train our sales force,” she says, adding the company hires friendly, outgoing individuals who are willing to work hard. “These are enthusiastic salespeople.”
Davis also points out that Vivint sales reps are instructed to review a contract with a customer — including detailing the federal cooling-off rule, which gives consumers the right to cancel the sale within three business days — prior to signing. “We as a company have taken the responsibility to make sure customers know that.”
McIntosh says she already knew about the cooling-off rule and decided to invoke it after reviewing the Pinnacle contract the next morning. Despite the salesmen’s promises of a locked-in monthly rate, Pinnacle reserved the right to change the equipment and price at any time without notifying the customer, she says. “I had a sick feeling about the whole thing,” she adds. She also submitted an F review on Angie’s List, and filed complaints with the Texas attorney general’s office and Better Business Bureau. She says Pinnacle still withdrew $295 from her bank account and credit card. “They never told me why,” she says. “It took three weeks to get it refunded.”
John Knox, president of the Electronic Security Association, the largest national trade association for alarm companies, says consumers must do their homework before hiring an alarm company by researching the company and asking friends and neighbors for references — the same advice that Angie’s List recommends for hiring any contractor.
“The homeowner needs to remember that they’re sharing the most intimate part of their lives when they invite a stranger into the home and start talking about security,” Knox says. “For that person to do a proper job, they need to go into every room in the house. And they’ll learn a lot of intimate information. Homeowners need to ask themselves if they’re willing to share that information with someone who just knocked on their door.”
— Additional reporting by Lisa Renze-Rhodes
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted May 30, 2013