Edmonton·GO PUBLIC

AlarmForce service falls short of TV ad expectations, Edmonton couple says

An Edmonton couple says they counted on an AlarmForce security system to protect their home and possessions. But they say the company failed them exactly when they needed it.

AlarmForce says initial inspection found no evidence of break-in

Kelley and Stuart Palace lost about $20,000 over and above what their insurance covered, but it was the theft of their personal information that had the most lasting impact. (Mark Harvey/CBC)

An Edmonton couple says they counted on an AlarmForce security system to protect their home and possessions but say the company failed them exactly when they needed it.

Stuart and Kelley Palace claim the company waited more than an hour after receiving the first alarm before it called the police. In the meantime, thieves went through every room in their west-Edmonton home.

The thieves made off with jewelry, cash, credit cards and electronics, as well as passports and other personal documents.

"I was hoping our house would be safe and secure when we were not home, and that they would look after any sort of situation," Kelley Palace said. "And that was not the case at all."
The Palaces say AlarmForce initially told them a security guard found the home was secure. (Stuart Palace)

Stuart Palace estimated they lost about $20,000 beyond what insurance covered, but the theft of their personal information has had the most lasting effect.

He said he's been in an almost daily battle against thieves who have broken into their online banking accounts, reset their passwords, issued themselves debit cards and changed user IDs for online accounts.

"That's been the most damage for us," he said. "My heart would race every day of my life for the last six months."

"I just think of it as a living hell," Kelley said.

Her husband said what made him most angry was the company's insistence on holding them to their three-year contract.

"I'm outraged, completely outraged," he said.

"They have the audacity to even think about sending me a bill and wanting me to pay them for their errors. With everything we've gone through, this is the final straw that makes you very upset."

After calls and emails from CBC Go Public, AlarmForce issued a statement saying it is willing to terminate the Palaces' contract without further penalties or fees.

AlarmForce ads convinced couple to sign up

AlarmForce's catchy jingle has been advertised on radio and TV for years. The company's commercials tout its "live two-way protection" which "can voice threaten the burglar out."

If an alarm goes off, it triggers a live connection between the house and the company's control centre. Commercials show AlarmForce staff demanding whoever is in the house to identify themselves and announcing "the police have been dispatched." It also shows the burglar being led away in handcuffs.

But the Palaces say in their case police weren't dispatched for more than an hour.

Kelley Palace said when the company first called her cellphone about the alarm going off, she was told a security guard had already inspected the house and found everything secure. She said, based on that assurance, she decided it was not necessary to also call police.

The Palaces believe that, based on the timeline provided by AlarmForce, thieves had already been in the house for 45 minutes.

They said it was another 25 minutes before the company called Kelley back, to say more alarms were going off and to ask again if she wanted police called.

She said yes. One hour and 10 minutes had passed between the first alarm and police being called.

Kelley said she arrived to find five police cars parked in front of her home, and when she was allowed in she could tell the thieves had been in the house a long time.

"Because every drawer was opened. What they had gone through had to have taken a lot of time," she said.

The Palaces said it appeared the thieves were able to makes several trips carrying property from the house to a nearby ravine, including a floor safe that was forced open and cleaned out.

They believe the guard AlarmForce sent to their house didn't do his job properly and the company should have sent police much sooner.

They understand the first alarm came in at 9:28 p.m., that the guard arrived at 9:50, the company told  Kelley the house was secure at 10:15 and police were finally dispatched at 10:40 p.m.

AlarmForce say response 'effective' and 'diligent'

AlarmForce spokeswoman Chetna Kapadia said when they signed their contract, the Palaces had the option of police or guard services and chose guard.

Kapadia said AlarmForce called police immediately after Kelley requested they do so.

"The AlarmForce system did work effectively and our monitoring station operators performed their duties diligently," Kapadia wrote in her statement to Go Public.

The Palaces said they were attracted by AlarmForces' commercials but a clause in their contract says "the subscriber is not relying on any advice or advertisement of AlarmForce".

Dispatch 'not guaranteed'

The contract states "dispatch, whether by police authority or private response services, is not guaranteed nor is the response time."

Stuart Palace said that came as a surprise but, regardless of the contract language, what happened to him was nothing like the service he was given to expect from the ads.

"I didn't know they would be able to overturn all the things they say to the public. I mean, it should not be allowed," he said.

One 22-year veteran of the industry suggests the contract's clause seems unusual.

Pat Sparrow of a competing company, Telsco, said limitations on liability are normal but distancing yourself from your advertising is not.

"It seems very odd to me that you advertise one thing and state something entirely different in your contract," Sparrow said.

Sparrow said industry protocol is to call police after two different alarm sensors are triggered.

The Palaces say AlarmForce received 10 alarms from three different sensors before police were called.

The couple's agreement also states contracts cannot be cancelled. But Kapadia said the company was willing to terminate the agreement at no further cost saying, it "is unfortunate the Palace's (sic) are unhappy with the AlarmForce service and regret this situation."

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