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Alarm customers can get refunds

March 11, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- More than 1,200 Western Maryland residents who bought home-security systems from unlicensed salespeople last year can get refunds as part of a settlement between the Maryland attorney general's office and APX Alarm Security Systems, a Utah-based company whose door-to-door salespeople in Washington County were unlicensed.

The attorney general's office sent complaint forms to 1,267 APX customers, who must fill them out and return them to get a refund, spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said Wednesday.

In Maryland, alarm companies and individual salespeople must be licensed.

Last summer, APX salespeople from Reston, Va., circulated through neighborhoods in Washington County to sell alarm systems. APX representative Nathan Wilcox said Wednesday that company officials didn't realize the Virginia salespeople didn't have Maryland licenses.

Wilcox said he doesn't expect all of those customers to request refunds.

Claim notices went out on Monday, he said. As of Wednesday, about 15 percent of those who replied wanted to keep their security systems, Wilcox said.

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The Herald-Mail reported last summer that about a half-dozen people complained to the Washington County Sheriff's Department about "aggressive tactics" by APX salespeople. Sheriff Douglas Mullendore gave as an example "kind of pushing the door and walking in uninvited."

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, has said a pushy APX salesman wouldn't leave his property. A few others said salespeople knocked on their door at night.

At the time, Alex Dunn, APX's chief operating officer, called the allegations "indefensible" and said the company didn't condone them.

Guillory said the attorney general's office received 27 complaints about APX from Western Maryland.

APX has been the subject of complaints in other places it sells security systems, but this probably is its first settlement for a group of customer refunds, according to Wilcox. He said the nearly 1,300 potential refunds in Western Maryland is a small percentage of the approximately 190,000 security systems APX installed in 2008.

Quoting two people familiar with Maryland law, The Herald-Mail reported last summer that APX contracts sold by unlicensed salespeople might be voidable. Dunn said then that he wouldn't be surprised if those contracts had to be canceled.

As part of the settlement worked out in January, APX's salespeople in Maryland must be licensed. Wilcox said a new safeguard prevents company computers from processing a transaction if the salesperson isn't licensed in that ZIP code.

Wilcox said he expects APX to return to the Washington County area this year with licensed salespeople.

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