I never cease to be amazed by the inventiveness of potential scammers. Not content with phoning up and pretending to be Microsoft’s help centre, or emailing to tell you that someone you don’t know in Cameroon wants to place millions of euros in your bank account, they have now turned their attention to smoke detectors.
Since March 8th this year, private property owners in France have been required to fit a smoke alarm (détecteur de fumée). This is a pretty sensible idea. Once your house is on fire, you have surprisingly little time to get out. It’s not the flames that get you but the smoke inhalation. Smoke detectors are (or should be) more sensitive than the human sense of smell, so they give you that extra chance to escape.
Many house fires in France are caused by electrical faults. Conscious that our own electrical installation may not be perfect in places, we had a smoke alarm installed a few years ago. We also have a portable one elsewhere in the house.
Like most such equipment, smoke detectors have to conform to quality and safety norms in France. If you buy one, it should have the certification CE and NF EN 14604 (“Norme Française”). You are also supposed to inform your insurer in writing that your house has a smoke detector installed. I wonder how many people know this (we didn’t).
Beware of phoney inspectors
Two scams have been going on in relation to smoke detectors. Scam Number 1 concerns door-to-door salespeople who claim to be official, authorised sellers of smoke detectors. They are bogus; there are no official smoke alarm sellers. So don’t let them in, and certainly don’t buy an overpriced alarm from them.
Scam Number 2 is a phone scam and we have experienced this on a number of occasions recently. You answer the phone and a recorded message kicks in, telling you that an authorised smoke alarm inspector is going to come round and check that your detector conforms to the standards. The message then asks you to wait to be connected to someone so that you can fix an appointment.
Again, there are no official inspectors. Instead, they will charge you through the nose for their service and, to add insult to injury, might case the joint to burgle it later on.
You do have to maintain your alarm (i.e. make sure the batteries haven’t run out) and ensure it’s in working order. But there is, as yet, no official programme of inspections. So, again, don’t make an appointment and don’t let them in if they turn up.
There are also insurance implications if you don’t install a detector. I won’t go into detail here since I’m no expert. You can find out more about it on this site, or via Google.
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