Boston-based SimpliSafe attacked the home security industry, painting alarm companies as enemies looking to take advantage of customers.
By Scott Goldfine · August 4, 2016
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!
That’s how I feel after coming across an inflammatory ad seeking to discredit the entire security alarm industry.
The offending company first drew my attention last year with testimonial-oriented TV ads highlighting its offering was different from traditional alarm systems. The ante (and my pulse) was raised when I began to hear radio and podcast ads more openly critical of the “traditional” alarm industry.
However, the recent print magazine campaign I encountered is, in my opinion, an all-out declaration of war on our industry and as such has my blood boiling.
The egregious and antagonistic act was inflicted by SimpliSafe, a Boston-headquartered hybrid residential and small business security systems provider that sells prepackaged self-installed (DIY) kits online, with alarm monitoring principally handled by Roselle, N.J.-based AMCEST’s wholesale central station ($14.99/month to customers).
Having grown to more than 250 employees and a claimed 500,000+ customers, SimpliSafe’s aggressive marketing has been fueled by funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital’s $57 million infusion in 2014. Founded by Ivy League graduate and current CEO Chad Laurans, the company presently offers some 10 wireless home and light commercial packages priced from the $229.96 “Starter” set to the $539.85 “Ultimate” option.
Related: SimpliSafe DIY Home Security System ‘Inherently Insecure’ and Prone to Hacking, Report Finds
The giant incendiary headline reads: “There is something TERRIBLY WRONG with the Home Security Industry.”
The body copy includes these assertions: “Most alarm companies take advantage of people who want to feel safe. They offer you a ‘free’ outdated alarm, but then require you to sign a long-term contract full of nasty fine print. It’s pretty sickening really. Our founder, a Harvard engineer, studied the alarm industry and found all kinds of problems with it.”
During my nearly two decades in this business, I have seen many newcomers to the electronic security field deploying all kinds of strategies and making lots of claims. But never have I witnessed — particularly on such a large, nationwide scale — the brazen bashing and venom spewing now being aimed at our great, proud and proven industry by this bile-pedaling excuse for a security company.
It’s more than hitting below the belt; it is an affront to everything for which we stand. Further, it undermines the well-deserved and hard-earned faith and trust we have instilled among the public.
It’s bad enough our industry has had to contend with losing customers to deceptive sales practices and get bombarded with rampant news reports of consumers being victimized by alarm company scams. We all know, and to their credit some of our trade associations’ high-profile companies have stepped forward to publicize the fact that those cases are a few bad apples and low-end bottom feeders that are not truly representative of the industry overall (media sensationalism also plays a role).
The closest parallel I can draw to SimpliSafe’s negative campaign is the alarm industry’s conflict with law enforcement regarding false alarms, and the few highly vocal detractors who pushed for nonresponse and excessive penalties. Thanks to better equipment and practices, along with vigilance from organizations like the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), false alarms have been reduced and relationships with first responders much improved. However, we had all better brace for a false alarms surge in the near future due to self-installed devices such as those sold by SimpliSafe.
No matter what anyone alleges, there is no substitute for a custom-tailored, professionally installed security system.
That issue is among several — not the least of which are misleading declarations and reports of system hacking vulnerabilities (sources tell me there have also been licensing snafus) — that tell me SimpliSafe ought not be throwing stones from its glass house. An outfit like that can’t touch the high skill and expertise, superior equipment, wider choice of products and services, and premium customer service, full-service operators in our business deliver on a daily basis.
DIY has its place in the market but there is no room for desperate, baseless ploys that soil the good name of our industry and its thousands of upstanding professionals.
However, just doing a good job is not enough. From grassroots to mass media, security firms and groups must actively promote the industry’s virtues and help ensure the public is exposed to balanced and truthful information.