ESA Unveils Stronger Conduct Standards

Day one of ISC West 2010 is officially in the books, and there’s no denying that the show is busy -- and buzzing.

It was clear that many exhibitors were reassured by the impressive crowds on the show floor. Although the final attendance numbers haven’t been released, it’s probably safe to say Wednesday was busier than last year’s opening day.

In addition to sizing up the crowds, industry professionals also can look to IMS Research, the U.K.-based market research firm, which has been keeping a close eye on security through the economic slowdown. It may be hard to believe, but the electronic security industry was only down 0.2 percent for 2008 to 2009. Compare that to other industries, such as semiconductors, which fell a whopping 30 percent, and it’s clear how necessary security is around the world.

Looking to 2010 and beyond, IMS predicts the economic recovery in the security world will be heralded by access control and video. The analysts also said that while megapixel is a strong trend, HD is beginning to emerge as the format of choice. And, notably, it looks like the United States is bouncing back faster from the downturn than other regions, especially Europe.

Clearly, as consumer confidence returns, spending will follow. In an effort to establish its member companies as pillars of assurance, the Electronic Security Association announced yesterday that it is adopting a stricter code of ethics and stronger standards of conduct. ESA is the largest and oldest electronic security trade association in the United States, and its members include more than 2,800 security companies and 500,000 professionals.

Merlin Guilbeau, the executive director of ESA, said the Council of Better Business Bureaus fielded about 3,000 complaints against the home alarm system industry in 2009 alone. In many cases, door-to-door sales representatives are pressuring and manipulating homeowners into buying a new system or panel or even signing a different contract. Guilbeau told the story of Mary Jackson, an 87-year-old homeowner who was conned into swapping her ADT security panel out for a new one from a competing agency. The salesman told her his company had bought out ADT, but in the end Jackson wound up with an incompatible, worthless panel.

However rare they may be, cases like this have a way of sullying the image of the entire security monitoring industry. That’s why ESA’s new code of ethics includes a gamut of best practices and standards, ranging from the concrete -- like enhanced identification requirements and better refund policies -- to the more abstract, such as more respect for customers and no false accusations about competitors.

“Trust in the industry as a whole is being undermined by these rogue reps,” said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “We hope these more stringent rules will encourage every player in the industry to bring integrity and honesty to the forefront of their customer service and sales practices.”

Highlighting the problem of deceptive door-to-door sales behavior, David Bleisch, ADT chief legal officer, announced on Wednesday that the company has filed a suit against three alarm sales representatives and two companies for unfair and unlawful business practices. The story is similar to that of Jackson: Sales representatives approached an elderly homeowner and convinced her to “upgrade” her ADT system -- something she never wanted to do in the first place.

“It is our responsibility as the nation’s leading home security provider to aggressively pursue cases against people who lie, mislead and harass unsuspecting victims,” Bleisch said.

Thankfully the industry is starting to take notice of such crimes. And kudos to ESA for leading the pack.

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