Dear ABC News Fixer: Last April, after having a persistent sales representative from the home security company Vivint come to our door and wake up our baby night after night, my husband and I decided to let him in. We had no intentions of purchasing a security system -- we just wanted him to stop.
We listened to his presentation and talked it over. Living in a new development, with a new baby at home, and with my husband constantly out for training and with him deploying in a few months, we decided it would probably be a good investment.
We also knew there was a very good chance he would eventually get orders for change in duty station. So, before signing the contract, we asked the representative three times whether, in the event this happened, we would be able to cancel the contract. The representative told us it would not be a problem; that Vivint works with military families all the time and all we would need to do was turn in the orders.
My husband has now re-enlisted during his current deployment to Afghanistan and has come down on orders to Ft. Lewis, Wash. And I have now found out that we cannot cancel our contract with Vivint (which goes through October of 2015) based on these orders.
- Kristen Chambers, El Paso, Texas
Dear Kristen: With a hubby in Afghanistan, a baby and an impending move, the ABC News Fixer could see why you wouldn't want to keep paying two more years on a security system you won't need.
It turns out Vivint does have a military cancelation policy, but it applies to active duty personnel who are moving overseas, moving to a remote location or a relocating into on-base military housing. You told us you're planning to move near Ft. Lewis but into private housing near the base, so your situation doesn't fall into any of these categories. When you first started complaining, they suggested you put the alarm system in your new place or transfer the contract to a family member – something you weren't keen on doing.
However, Vivint spokeswoman Megan Herrick said the company's policy does allow for special exceptions. After The ABC News Fixer brought your situation to their attention, their special cancelations department looked into it and did cancel your contract – without any extra fees.
We weren't there to hear what the sales guy said to you. (If only we had a time machine to do just that.) We asked Herrick about it, and she said the company tries to prevent confusion by giving pre-installation and post-installation customer surveys, in which the customer is asked if the salesperson made any verbal promises or if any of the contract terms are unclear. She said no red flags came up in your surveys.
Vivint -- formerly known as APX Alarm before a 2011 rebranding -- has come under scrutiny elsewhere for alleged deceptive sales practices. In the past year alone, Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio and Nebraska have obtained voluntary settlements with Vivint following investigations into consumer complaints. In some cases Vivint paid refunds, restitution and investigative costs – though the company did not admit wrongdoing.
Lisa Davis, Vivint's community relations director, said the company is continually working on its sales practices: "We haven't been perfect and we still aren't perfect, and we're continuing to have these conversations."
Meanwhile, our advice – and this holds true for any contract a consumer is considering, whether it's for a service or an item – is simple: If a sales person makes a promise, make sure you get it in writing.
- The ABC News Fixer
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