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State investigating complaints from Washington County over alarm company's sales practices

July 30, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Maryland attorney general's office is investigating two local complaints about APX Alarm Security Systems' sales practices in recent months.

One complaint came from Betty J. Kline of Hagerstown, who says she repeatedly told a salesman that she can't afford a security system, but he wouldn't budge, so she signed a contract to get him to leave.

She said she tried canceling within three days, as the law permits, but APX refused. The salesman was at her home in late June, yet the contract was dated May 29, Kline said.

A letter from APX says she owes $2,300.

Utah-based APX has a license to sell security systems in Maryland, but the salesman named on Kline's contract doesn't, Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. Arthur Betts said in a voice-mail message.

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Alex Dunn, APX's chief operating officer, didn't return two phone messages Tuesday.

Patrick H. Roddy, an attorney with Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC in Towson, Md., said APX hired him as local counsel, but he couldn't speak for the company.

When APX salespeople blanketed local neighborhoods in June, about a half-dozen people complained to the Washington County Sheriff's Department about "aggressive tactics," such as "kind of pushing the door and walking in uninvited," Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said at the time.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he had a confrontation with a pushy APX salesman who wouldn't leave his property.

At the time, Dunn called the allegations "indefensible" and said, "The behavior that you've described is not acceptable."

Shank said an APX representative recently apologized and told him that if he knows people pressured into getting security systems, the company would cancel the contracts.

On June 6, the City of Hagerstown issued 45 peddling permits to APX salespeople for door-to-door solicitation. However, APX salespeople didn't have required peddling permits for the rest of Washington County, where they also knocked on doors, Circuit Court Clerk Dennis J. Weaver said at the time.

In a June e-mail, Dunn said APX's license and compliance department learned that a Reston, Va., sales team was soliciting in Maryland, outside of its territory. The team was told to return to Virginia.

In Maryland, alarm companies and individual salespeople must get licenses from the state police.

Betts said the state police licensing division got its first complaint about APX on June 11. APX representatives told state police at the end of June they'd make sure salespeople were licensed and wouldn't knock on doors late at night, Betts said.

Kline and another Washington County woman filed complaints with the attorney general's office this month with help from Neal Glessner, the president of Glessner Alarm & Communications in Hagerstown.

Attorney general's office spokeswoman Raquel Guillory confirmed both complaints and said they're being reviewed.

The second woman didn't respond to two phone messages left at a phone number Glessner provided.

Kline said an APX salesman approached her husband in their garage. Her husband, who doesn't hear well, led the salesman into the house to talk to her.

"I told the guy at least 20 times that I can't afford it," she said.

She said her health isn't good and she was tired.

"He just wouldn't leave," she said. "I more or less signed the paper trying to get rid of him."

The salesman then offered to pay the first month, she said. As he left for a little while, someone else showed up to install the system in her house.

Kline said she called APX within three days to cancel, as Maryland law allows, but she was rejected and got a letter saying she owes $2,300 for the five-year contract.

She has put the letter aside and changed her credit card, she said.

"A few years ago, my husband could have picked him up and thrown him out," Kline said of the salesman, "but he's had open-heart surgery."

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