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Watchdog: Burglary victim angry at home security company

By Gabe Semenza
March 15, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.
Updated March 15, 2012 at 10:16 p.m.


A QUESTION FOR WATCHDOG?

To submit questions, email watchdog@vicad.com or call Advocate Public Service Editor Gabe Semenza at 361-580-6519. No topic is off-limits.

Nancy Heibel is proof the squeaky wheel, at least sometimes, gets the grease.

Heibel, a 26-year-old Victoria woman, felt vulnerable in June after criminals burglarized her home. To regain a sense of peace, she hired Vivint to install a security system.

Months later, however, she learned the system was faulty. A Vivint technician confirmed it during an on-site visit.

"He reported on the work order that the panel/system was faulty and failed to communicate, so he replaced the entire system," Heibel noted. "But customer service told me they would do nothing to compensate for eight months of fees - when the service was not functional. They also told me I could not get out of my contract without a $1,600 cancellation fee."

Heibel said she hopes her story helps others to avoid similar struggles.

A quick online search for Vivint reveals Heibel's frustrating experience is not unique. During the past three years, 1,365 Vivint customers filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Of those complaints, 770 pertain to problems with the Vivint's product or service.

The company also has ongoing problems with varied state and local governments. The company's salespeople are accused of using various false or misleading sales tactics, aggressive sales tactics, refusing to leave consumers' homes and claiming partnerships with fire or police associations in order to close the sale, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Because of this, the bureau gives Vivint a "D" rating.

"Anything below a 'B-' rating is concerning," Allan Bligh, a South Texas regional bureau director, said.

Bligh offered the following advice for consumers who are considering hiring a home security company:

Review the company at the Better Business Bureau's website at bbb.org.

Visit www.txdps.state.tx.us to verify the company, salesperson and installer are licensed in Texas.

Make sure the contract includes all promises made by the salesperson; if not, do not sign the contract.

For all its poor marks, Vivint has, however, won several arguably impressive awards, including the J.D. Power and Associates "Outstanding Customer Service Experience" certification in 2008 and 2009.

Megan Herrick, a Vivint spokeswoman, said the company acknowledges it is not perfect.

"We grew rapidly from 2007-2009," Herrick said. "We don't deny accidents happened."

The company today has 574,000 customers, she said. Thus, 1,365 complaints reported to the Better Business Bureau represent less than 1 percent of Vivint customers.

Additionally, the company resolved each of the complaints reported to the Better Business Bureau, according to a review of the bureau's website. After the Advocate contacted Vivint last week, the company announced it would also reimburse Heibel for all those months her alarm system was faulty.

"I'm happy to be reimbursed, but it took way too much work," Heibel said. "You would think a good company would just do the right thing right away. I recommend you investigate a company before signing a contract."

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