Locked out of your own alarm system?

At P&R Alarms we pride ourselves on customer service and doing the best we can for all our clients, both domestic and commercial. It’s this approach and attitude than helps us retain our NSI Gold standard certification, as customer service features strongly in the accreditation. It really gets our goat, then, when we hear about other security companies acting less than scrupulously and effectively locking their customers into service contracts with them, even when they want to switch.

Recently several customers, fed up with the poor service they were receiving from another company, asked us to take over the servicing and maintenance contract for their intruder alarm systems. There wasn’t anything unusual about this – we regularly take over from other companies when they cease trading or when customers feel they’d get a better service from us than their existing supplier. What was unusual about these recent requests was that the installation company had effectively locked any other service company out of the system, meaning we couldn’t take on the system until the customer had paid out for the previous supplier to come and unlock their system. If this isn’t possible, or the customer didn’t want the old company coming back out, the entire control panel has to be removed and sent to the manufacturer for unlocking, leaving the property without an alarm while this is carried out.

When any company installs an intruder alarm system they will set an engineer’s code, which gives access to the full range of functions available. User codes, like the one you use to set and unset your alarm, are also created through this function so while you as the customer can access most of the system and the functions, there are parts you can’t get to without the engineers code. These “hidden” parts of the system are what our engineers need to access to carry out servicing and maintenance, and they can be locked into the system so they can’t be changed or over-ridden. Only the person or company who set and knows the engineers code can change it, which we think is very bad practice. We never lock our codes into any system we install because it’s not our property – the equipment belongs to the person who paid for it – the owner.

You can imagine how annoyed our new customers were when they discovered that their old supplier had locked themselves into the system as there’s no way of knowing this was the case until we were already on site. A costly call out or removal of the control panel ensued to allow us access, meaning our new customers were out of pocket thanks to their original supplier.

If you are thinking of switching supplier for your intruder alarm service and maintenance contract, then ensure that your existing supplier provides you with the engineering code or, at the very least, returns it to the default engineering code. They are often reluctant to do this because it means they’re about to lose a customer, and you may find yourself arguing with someone who is trying to sell you a more expensive maintenance package with the same unscrupulous company. It is not illegal or a security risk to give you the code, or to set it to the default, so if they refuse it’s a good sign you’re dealing with a company who don’t provide good customer service, but who use other ways to keep their customers with them despite that poor service.

If any of our clients wanted to leave our services and take up a maintenance contract with another supplier, we wouldn’t try to undermine their decision and we never lock our engineering codes into the system, so our customers are free to leave at any time. They stay with us because we provide unrivalled customer service and we’re reliable – we wouldn’t be an NSI Gold standard supplier otherwise.