Have you looked at your home security system bill lately? Have you ever wondered exactly what kind of service you're receiving for your monthly fee? Me too!
I've had ADT for nearly four years, faithfully paying them $37 a month, every month. And when I first started with them, I got good service. In my city, the police do not respond to home alarms. Instead, ADT has a list of numbers to call when an alarm goes off.
If they do not reach me, they're supposed to dispatch the "guard service." If they do reach me, I have the option of having the guard respond or not. If the guard is dispatched to the house, the guard is supposed to survey the perimeter of the house to look for obvious signs of a break-in, like a broken window or door. If everything looks okay, the guard leaves with no further action. If there is evidence of a break-in, the guard calls the police. Everything used to go like clockwork, and I had no complaints.
But over the last year or more, I've gotten the feeling that the guard service does not actually go to the house. The prior company contracted by ADT used to leave a business card or note to let the homeowner know they showed up. The current service doesn't do that, and I was convinced it was because they weren't going to the houses. (After all, if I'm not there, I'll never know!)
I've asked ADT about this a few times, and got standard answers. I was basically told that if I had a problem I should take it up with the guard service. Really? Because I don't pay them. I pay ADT. So it's ADT's responsibility to monitor the performance of their vendors, in my opinion.
Yesterday I got one of those calls about my alarm. I told the ADT representative that I wanted the guard service to check things out, but that I didn't think they really ever did that anyway. The representative put me on hold and called the guard service. He said he was told it would take 30 to 45 minutes for someone to get to my house, but that someone would definitely show up.
I raced home to see if the guard service showed up. And a guard arrived! But instead of surveying the perimeter of the house, he got out of his car, went to the front door, rang the doorbell, and turned around and left. He didn't even bother to check anything. He knew I wasn't home, yet he rang the doorbell. What was that supposed to accomplish? Maybe a burglar is going to answer the door?
I immediately called ADT to cancel my service. I see no reason to pay $37 a month to receive essentially no service. Oh sure, ADT calls me and says that my alarm is going off. What good does that do? The guard isn't going to actually do anything, so I really don't need to pay $37 to receive a useless phone call. I'll know the alarm went off once I get home and look at the keypad.
But this is where the situation takes the best turn of all. Customer service offers to give me a credit on my next bill for my trouble and to complain to the guard service. I turned them down, and insisted that I wanted my service canceled. ADT will cancel my service, but I still have to pay for another 30 days of monitoring. Why? Because ADT requires a 30 day notice to cancel my service with them. I'm under a month-to-month contract with them, but still need to pay for 30 more days after I decide I want to cancel.
The fact that I'm canceling because ADT is incompetent doesn't matter to them. The fact that I haven't been getting the service I've paid for and probably deserve a decent-sized refund doesn't matter to them. No, they want their money for 30 more days and they don't care what I think.
Of course, I explained over the phone that I felt it was completely unfair to force me to pay for 30 more days of a service I haven't even been receiving. They don't care. They say it takes 30 days to "get me out of the system anyway." Yeah, like I really believe that. If they can put me "in the system" in one day, they can surely take me out in one day.
I've signed up with a competing security company, which will hopefully provide the service I'm going to be paying for. But I'd advise homeowners to stay far, far away from ADT Home Security. Not only do they not provide the services you pay for, they want you to keep paying for non-service for 30 more days after you figure out you're not getting any service. That, my friends, is definitely a rip-off.
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Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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