Michael Currie installed a home monitoring system from Connecticut-based Safe Home Security Inc. in 2005looking for some peace of mind. What he didn't count on was the headache of trying to remove it when he moved.
When Currie, a major in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, tried to end his $45 monthly contract for the home security system because he was leaving his Winchendon house, he ran into a convoluted cancellation system. When he was finally able to get out of the contract, the company continued to withdraw money from his bank account.
"I kept paying for a service that was not even connected," Currie said. He eventually got his bank to block the deductions by Safe Home Security.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says Currie’s problems aren’t unique.
Healey's office has launched an investigation into the Cromwell, Conn., home security company, which has been the target of hundreds of consumer complaints about faulty equipment and unfair billing and collection practices.
Safe Home Security Inc. provides home and business security monitoring services to more than 17,000 customers in Massachusetts. Healey's office has received more than 250 complaints about the firm.
Officials with Healey's office declined to comment on the investigation, saying it was ongoing, but court documents indicate investigators were focused on "unfair or deceptive conduct" in its collection practices.
Safe Home Security has been in business for 20 years, and David Russman, a Boston attorney representing the company in the investigation, said it is cooperating.
Safe Home is committed to customer service, he said in a statement.
"Every customer concern is reviewed thoroughly in order to provide the appropriate solution according to the customer's individual contract," he said.
But Leonora Lamothe, a Chicopee retiree, said she had repeated problems with her Safe Home Security system. She installed it in her house in 2010, but a few years later alarms started going off in the middle of the night. She tried multiple times to get the company to fix it.
At one point, the alarm went off while she was on vacation. Lamothe said she was notified on her phone app that the system had been triggered. But the police weren’t called, which was supposed to happen. Instead, Lamothe said she asked a relative to check on her house.
It took numerous calls with multiple people in the company to finally cancel her service.
Now, she just has cameras around her property that she monitors herself.
"I'm not trusting another security system or alarm system again," Lamothe said.
Safe Home Security has had similar problems in the past. The Better Business Bureau has received more than 1,000 complaints about the company in the past three years.
In 2007, the Connecticut Attorney General's Office filed a complaint against Safe Home Security and its owner David Roman, alleging violations of the state's unfair trade practices act. The agency alleged that the company's automatic contract renewal provisions and its billing and debt collection practices were illegal.
The case took seven years to resolve, and in 2014, the Connecticut Superior Court required the company to pay the state $100,000 and barred it from employing unfair trade practices, such as knowingly selling items that don't work or are defective; failing to honor warranties; collecting or charging consumers fees when an account was inactive or terminated; and harassing customers to collect payments, according to the court judgment.
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has expressed similar concerns about the company and has asked Safe Home Security to provide documents dating back to 2012 detailing its marketing and contracts, as well as how it tracks consumer complaints and assigns accounts to collection agencies, according to Suffolk Superior Court documents.
Safe Home Security has argued that some of Healey’s requests for documents are too broad and could take months to produce. Safe Home is asking a judge to a limit how much information it has to provide Healey.
Russman, Safe Home's attorney, said the company is trying to work with investigators.
"Safe Home's first priority has always been and will continue to be the protection of its clients' safety, security and privacy," he said in a statement.