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Every alarm system comes from the factory with a standard "installers code" which allows low level programming of your alarm panel. When your alarm company installs your system, it is normal for them to change the factory default installer code to one of their own. This is done to ensure that no one without their particular code can access the many settings inside the panel which govern it's ability to function properly and send the appropriate alarm, test, and trouble signals to your Central Station.
However, your alarm company also has the ability to "lock" their installer code, making it impossible for anyone else to return the alarm system back to default factory settings prior to reprogramming with the information necessary for them to takeover responsibility for your service. At this point, the next company coming in has only limited choices - change the board for a new one (either absorbing the costs themselves, or charging you for a new panel), or choosing not to renew monitoring services.
Let me be very clear on this point ! It is a highly unethical practice to lock boards which fully belong to the customer (this means the system is fully paid for up front, or the original "zero down" contract term is complete. It also assumes the client is honouring his current monitoring commitment and owes the alarm company nothing in past dues). This is akin to a car dealer selling you an automobile, and putting a padlock on the hood so you MUST deal with them for service ! If, however, you have purchased one of the "zero down" systems, or your system is not fully paid for until the end of a contract term, the alarm company still owns the equipment and has the right to lock the board to protect their investment. But ONCE FULLY PAID FOR, the company should be dialing in to the panel and unlocking it, since they no longer own it at this point. If however, they do not upload their panels as many companies don't, it may necessitate a service call to unlock the board. This may or may not result in charges to the client depending upon the exact nature of service costs negotiated between the customer and the alarm company. However, a strong argument can be made that failure on the part of the alarm company to invest in the technology to do so should not make the end user liable for costs to visit to do what can and should be done over the phone lines.
As a consumer, you should get it in writing at time of purchase that the board is not locked, or that they will dial in (or visit) at the end of the original contract term and unlock it. If they don't upload, find out beforehand the exact charges for a service call to visit to unlock the board. This will permit you to shop freely at the end of the original contract for another monitoring and service supplier should their service have been poor in the past, or their current prices are not competitive. Their insistence on the need to send out a technician to do it should be clearly justified. To repeat, most professional companies today can upload / download your panel from their offices and unlock your board (with the exception of some older panels which do not have this ability).
To protect your alarm investment, be sure to get your alarm company's clear position in writing - preferably as part of your original contract agreement.
Needless to say, we do not engage in this disreputable practice !
14 August, 2008 10:05 AM