Massachusetts installers battle Comcast, Verizon in court

Lawsuit filed by installers’ group claims the cableco and telecom are endangering the public by not being licensed for the security alarm work they do in the state
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SHARON, Mass.—A Massachusetts security systems installers’ group has taken Comcast and Verizon to court, charging the cableco and telecom lack the required state licenses to do security alarm-related work in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association (MSCA), a trade association based here, is asking a judge to find the two new security industry entrants are violating state law and ban them from selling, installing and monitoring security systems in the state. The MSCA contends Comcast and Verizon are endangering the public by having unlicensed personnel do security systems work, and also infringing on the rights of the group’s members.

The MSCA says all its members who do security systems work have a state electrical license, have passed a criminal background check and work for companies that are licensed by the Department of Public Safety. Comcast and Verizon don’t meet such licensing requirements in their security systems work, the group alleges.

However, Comcast and Verizon want the judge to throw out the lawsuit—first filed in state court this summer but then transferred to U.S. District Court in Boston—saying it doesn’t apply to them for a variety of reasons.

Comcast in court documents says it’s exempt from the licensure laws that MSCA cites governing electrical security systems because its professionally-monitored Xfinity Home offering uses IP technology and wireless connections to security sensors, “and does not involve any electrical installation whatsoever.” Comcast released its offering in Houston in 2010 and has been rapidly expanding to other markets nationwide since then.

And Verizon says its Home Monitoring and Control service is a do-it-yourself system, and customers, not the company, are responsible for installing the easy, plug-in equipment. The offering, launched nationwide in 2011, is not professionally monitored and Verizon in the lawsuit calls it “a lifestyle service,” stressing that “HMC is not a security or alarm system.”

Additionally, both Verizon and Comcast assert that the MSCA has no authority to bring a lawsuit against them over licensing, because only the state and municipalities have the authority to enforce the licensing laws.

In fact, it turns out that at least two municipal wiring inspectors have “issued cease-and-desist orders to Comcast relating to their security work,” according to the lawsuit.

Those citations were slated to be heard by the Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians on Monday of this week. But the hearing on that administrative matter has been continued to a later date, possibly early in September, David Fine, an attorney representing the MSCA, told Security Systems News.

Because the issues before the board are related to those raised in the lawsuit, the MSCA, Comcast and Verizon have all agreed to put the lawsuit on hold until the board issues a decision on the citations and any appeal of that decision is fully resolved.

Fine said that his client declined to discuss the merits of the case with SSN because it is pending. Philadelphia-based Comcast also told SSN it has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Attorneys for Verizon, which is based in Basking Ridge, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment before SSN’s deadline.

In its lawsuit, the MSCA claims that “the performance of security systems work by Comcast and Verizon has caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm to MSCA members and to the public, due to the life safety and security concerns associated with this work. The Legislature has enacted multiple licensure requirements to ensure that those performing this work are educated, competent and trustworthy. In bypassing all of these legislative requirements, Comcast and Verizon are causing substantial and irreparable harm.”

The MSCA wants the court to “enjoin Comcast and Verizon from advertising, selling, contracting for, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing and monitoring” security and fire alarm systems in the state.


I'm glad to see that Mass. installers are taking initative to bring Comcast and Verizon's poor practices into the light.  This article is a great reminder that security alarms should be left to the true security professioanals who have shaped the industry into what it is today.  Being a security dealer myself, the current changes in the security market with the entrance of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Lowes is disturbing.  I am less scarred of losing RMR than I am of what these changes actually mean for the consumer.  DIY security is never as good as professionally installed security and companies like Comcast who hire subpar subcontractors will only muddle up the industries standards causing false alarm issues and consumer complaints.  Just because an industry has made a profit during a recession shouldn't mean that every teleco company should jump into the pool.  In my opinion, licensing standards need to be tightened even more and regulations put into place to protect the consumer and the police force that responds to alarms.


Crime Fighters of Atlanta

I definitely agree with you.

Im a state certified alarm contractor in the state of florida and gou cant even register a security system with the police without first having pulled an electrical permit and passes an inspection regardless of what type of system. These guys want to come into this industry and call it a lifestyle system but at the end of the day it is a monitored alarm system that is connected to a power source. If i have to be licensed and insured to put in a honeywell lynx which is completely wireless why dont they. Its a double standard and will put them out of business when the local authorities want to see electrical permits. I cant get away with that crap in south florida.
ADT Miami.

Isn't that America's new motto? 

This is the most scary "also infringing on the rights of the group’s members".  What 'rights'???  To claim control over an industry??

It's utterly stupid to think that using IP/POE needs any low voltage licensing.  This is just a northern state's union politics trying to make claim to work.  Wouldn't expect anything less then those integrators trying to limit competition. 

Per the last comment....if it's bad installation or service then the public will realize it and the market will work itself out fine.