ADT wants to charge me $2,089 for early termination. Is that fair?

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By Christopher Elliott

Sue Canavan is moving into a senior living facility. But before she does, ADT wants $2,089 from her for an early termination. Is that fair?

Question

Last summer, my ADT alarm was not working correctly. My husband was not well and died in mid-August. I scheduled a service call with ADT shortly thereafter. The technician told me the system needed an upgrade. 

Being newly widowed and in shock (and feeling that I needed the alarm), I signed a five-year agreement. 

I sold my house recently and have moved to senior housing, where I no longer need an alarm system. Afterward, I canceled the service. But I’ve been hit with a $2,089 fee for canceling. 

I have spent too much time on the phone trying to resolve the situation and have hit an immovable wall of “you signed the contract; you owe us.” 

I admit I signed the contract one week after my husband’s death, but I do believe that had I been thinking clearly, and not totally overwhelmed with grief, I would not have signed such a long-term agreement. 

Last week, I found the email for ADT’s CEO and sent him an email pretty much outlining what I have told you. But I have not heard anything. I value my good credit reputation and am on the verge of giving up and sending them the check. What do you think I should do? — Sue Canavan, Quincy, Mass.

Answer

I’m so sorry about your husband. You’re absolutely right, you should have taken some time to grieve and waited until later to make a decision about a long-term security contract. And ADT is absolutely right, too — you signed the agreement and you owe them.

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But there’s also a time for compassion, and I think this is one of them. There are no special circumstances in the contract under which ADT would give you a full refund, but there should be.

How long is the ADT trial period?

ADT offers a six-month trial period. During this period, you can decide whether to continue with the service or opt out. After the trial period, the standard ADT contract is typically 36 months, except for California, where it’s 24 months. Once the initial contract period ends, it automatically rolls over into a month-to-month contract that you can terminate at any time with at least 30 days’ notice. ADT may also require a refundable security deposit before installation of the equipment and commencement of services. Note: If you are considering canceling your ADT contract within the trial period, ADT provides a three-day buyer’s remorse money-back service guarantee, which allows you to cancel the contract within 72 hours of installation.

Can ADT charge me an early termination fee if I move into senior living?

Yes, ADT may charge an early termination fee if you move into senior living. According to ADT’s residential terms and conditions, upon early termination by the customer, ADT may charge 75 percent of the monthly service charges due for the balance of the initial contract term. The termination fees normally cost between $167 and $284, depending on the package. (Always review the terms of your specific contract with ADT and consider contacting customer service at 800-238-2727 to discuss your situation and explore ways to minimize any fees.

What can I do if I disagree with ADT’s early termination fee?

If you disagree with ADT’s early termination fee, there are ways to get out of the contract. First, carefully review the terms and conditions of your contract with ADT to understand the specifics of the early termination fee. (Remember, ADT has an early termination fee to recover the cost of equipment used around your property — or so it says.) If you believe the fee is unjust or excessive, consider reaching out to ADT’s customer service to discuss your concerns and ask it to waive the fee as a gesture of goodwill. Also, consider sending a brief, polite email to ADT’s customer service executives to express your disagreement with the fee and ask for a resolution. Be open to negotiation.

Bottom line: The ADT contract you signed is incredibly one-sided. If customers cancel for any reason, they face penalties and charges, often with no real possibility of appeal. ADT lets itself off the hook for all kinds of reasons, including “if it is impractical” to continue delivering service. Imagine if you could do the same thing?

Point is, these one-sided “adhesion” contracts are not fair to consumers.

Sending a brief, polite email to one of the executive contacts for ADT that I publish on my consumer advocacy site was a great idea. The company should have responded to you and tried to work something out. After all, you used all our problem-solving methods.

Instead, it did nothing.

You reached out to my advocacy team. I contacted ADT on your behalf. A representative called you to apologize. The company withdrew its $2,089 bill. (Related: I want to cancel my ADT contract. Can I get out of this $527 fee?)

About this story

Nothing makes my advocacy team madder than a big company trying to take advantage of a helpless elderly reader. So when we received this one, it was the equivalent of a five-alarm at the consumer advocacy firehouse. Our team jumped into action. Hat tip to Dwayne Coward and Mel Smith for the quick action. I researched, wrote and fact-checked this story, Andy Smith and his team edited it and Dustin Elliott provided the illustration.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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