SALT LAKE CITY — “I’m licensed by the police I need to speak to you. Here’s my badge.”
The man lifted his badge to the doorbell camera. It said, “Maryland State Police.”
In smaller type, was the word “Technician.”
The man was a regional manager for Vivint Smart Home, the Utah-based security and monitoring company. In August 2019, he was at a door in Maryland. A trainee was tagging along.
What happened in the 2 1/2-minute exchange with the homeowner, who gave FOX 13 the video, is now evidence in a lawsuit filed against Vivint by its much larger competitor, ADT. An assistant Maryland attorney general also voiced concerns after FOX 13 showed her the recording.
The manager never says he’s a police officer, but he appears in the video to use his state-issued badge to start a conversation with the homeowner. Maryland State Police confirm the manager was licensed to install and repair home security systems.
“Hi, I’m licensed by the police,” the manager said after the homeowner comes to the door. “Nice to meet you.”
“I’m helping with crime prevention,” the manager said a few seconds later.
The first mention of Vivint comes about 55 seconds into the conversation when the manager gives his name and says he’s with Vivint.
“You have ADT?” the manager asked the homeowner.
“I’m not selling you anything,” the manager said moments later.
The manager then said: “ADT sold their company.”
In fact, ADT had not been sold. So, the statement stood out to Maryland Assistant Attorney General Karen Straughn.
“It's a false and misleading statement,” she told FOX 13 after watching the video. “That's a violation of the Consumer Protection Act.”
She had more concerns.
“And he has to identify himself, his company and what he's doing to start off,” she said.
ADT has filed its lawsuit against Vivint in federal court in Miami. The suit accuses Vivint of using deceptive practices to steal or attempt to steal ADT customers. It’s the second time ADT has filed such a suit.
The first lawsuit was settled in 2017 with Vivint agreeing to pay ADT $10 million, according to court records. In its latest lawsuit, ADT attached a spreadsheet with about 250 customer complaints filed since the end of the first suit.
One ADT customer in California says a Vivint salesman claimed to be from ADT and said he was upgrading her system. She ended up with plans with both companies, according to the spreadsheet.
In another instance, an ADT customer in Washington, D.C., claims a salesperson said they were upgrading her equipment for free and told her to ignore future bills from ADT.
Straughn said Maryland residents have complained about Vivint in recent years.
“The largest majority are for failure to honor a cancelation request,” she said, “or failure to honor a refund request. But we also have complaints for unsatisfactory service. False and misleading statements.”
“But we do not have any closed enforcement actions against Vivint Smart Home,” Straughn added.
That means Maryland has not taken any actions against Vivint in the last three years, including no action over the 2019 video, though Straughn didn’t know about it until FOX 13 showed it to her.
“I’m required to speak to you guys about this,” the manager said near the end of his visit with the Maryland homeowner.
The two Vivint sales staff stayed on the front porch even when one of the homeowners said, “Please leave.”
The other homeowner said he didn’t want to tell a stranger about his home security system. He asked for a supervisor to call him.
“I am the regional manager,” the manager said.
When the Vivint pair did leave, the manager departed by saying, “OK, we can just shut it off, and have a good day.”
On an earnings call this August, Vivint CEO David Bywater said the company is taking steps to ensure good sales practices.
“I take this very serious,” he said.
“So, if anyone ever has any questions on that,” he added, “you know, talk to me personally.”
Bywater did not return FOX 13 messages seeking comment.
A company spokesperson issued a statement that addressed the manager in the video:
“Vivint expects its salespeople, and all employees, to uphold the highest standards of integrity, service and operational excellence and expects each employee to treat potential and existing customers with courtesy and respect. Vivint works diligently to ensure its employees comply with these and all of the company’s policies and procedures.
“When the company determined the employee did not adhere to those policies and procedures, it terminated his employment.”
In court, Vivint has disputed ADT’s accusations and filed a counterclaim. It accuses ADT of using its own deceptive tactics.
Vivint’s court filing includes what it says are 11 examples of such tactics.
Anyone who feels deceived by a company can make a report to their state’s division of consumer protection or to the Federal Trade Commission.