My monitored house alarm

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I have this monitored house alarm. It’s called Eircom Phonewatch. It was installed in 2003.

I would use the alarm if ever we all left the house, me, my wife and my autistic son together. As far as I can recall, the last time that happened was in 1991. It is not practicable to use the alarm with my son in residence, as he comes and goes at all hours of the day and night, following his own mysterious agenda. So the alarm is idle all of the time and we don’t use (or pay for) the monitoring service.

Today it started beeping. I rang Eircom Phonewatch customer service and spoke to a young woman. She asked me to press the System Status button and the alarm informed us that the battery in the downstairs motion sensor was low.

The young woman offered to send out an engineer to replace the battery.

Incredulous, I said, “An engineer! To replace a battery? How much would that cost?”

She said the call-out charge was €110. She explained that I would be charged because I was “not a customer”.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I am a customer. I bought and paid for this alarm system.”

“Your system is not being monitored,” she said. “You’re not paying the monthly charge for monitoring, which means you are not a customer.”

I blew a gasket, insisting that I was a customer. “I may not use your monitoring service, but as soon as I bought your alarm system, I became a customer.”

We disappeared down a rat-hole on that one for a while.

I asked her how to get the cover off the motion sensor in order to replace the battery. She refused to tell me. She could not advise me about that over the phone. She could send out an engineer…

“At a charge of €110! To replace a battery!” (That was me)

“That’s the call-out charge,” she said. “There would be materials on top of that.”

“The cost of the battery. How much is that?”

“Seven euro.”

“So you want to charge €117 to replace a €7 battery.”

I asked what sort of battery it was.

“I can’t tell you that, sir. When you remove the cover you’ll see the battery.”

“And how do I remove the cover?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I cannot advise you…”

The conversation continued in that vein for quite a while.

Then she said I could get my own electrical engineer to do the job, or, if I wasn’t using the alarm system, why not have it disconnected by one of their engineers at a call-out charge of €110.

“And what if I wanted to use it in the future?” said I.

“You’d have to get an engineer to reconnect it.”

“At a cost of another €110?”

“Plus materials.”

Mercifully, the beeping has stopped for the moment, and I’m waiting for my electrician to ring me back.

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