ADT ADS / WATCH OUT FOR CRAFTY MARKETING THAT MAY BE DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES
My article on "no contract ads" [January 20, 2016] suggested that these ads were, at a minimum, misleading, and perhaps fraudulent [thus potentially violating deceptive business practice statutes]. Actually my article didn't go that far, but maybe it should have.
Today I received an "IMPORTANT NOTICE" in a flyer delivered with my morning newspaper. I suppose I was one of many "lucky" recipients of ADT's offer to give me a "FREE WIRELESS HOME SECURITY SYSTEM" that has a value of $850.00. All I had to do is allow ADT to display its "small ADT security sign" on my front lawn. Since I am still disappointed at not having won the billion dollar power ball lottery I thought perhaps my luck had changed. Before I got to the many benefits of this free offer I did see in microscopic print that "important terms and conditions" were below, also in small print. The only "terms and conditions", important or otherwise, for my free system is that there is a '$99.00 customer installation charge, 36 month monitoring agreement at $36.99 a month". On a more positive note, "same/next day installation based on availability" was possible. Perhaps the 3 day notice of cancellation doesn't apply to this special free offer. Further reading disclosed that "ADT Theft Protection Guarantee" was included, though in smaller print "certain restrictions apply".
I wonder how many people reading this flyer would know that this offer is the very same offer always available by ADT; that the certain other restrictions and conditions include a bunch of disclaimers, an exculpatory and limitation of liability clause, among others, and that trying to cancel early comes with penalties.
This is the kind of marketing that lends itself to criticism by consumer affairs agencies and state attorney generals. Maybe I am being overly critical, but just the other day it was announced that the New York Attorney General had reached a settlement with several health - gym clubs. The gyms paid fines and penalties after the investigation revealed widespread violations of law including required disclosures to consumers. In NY its against the law for a gym contract to lock the customer in for more than 3 years or charge more than $3600.00 a year and apparently these gyms were not in compliance.
So what's the connection? Questionable practices that may raise issues with consumer agencies can affect the alarm industry, not just one alarm company. ADT, perhaps bigger than everyone else combined, certain carries a target on its back. It's practices affect other alarm companies who often emulate the obvious success of ADT marketing strategy. Right now the alarm industry is not restricted in length of term or how much it can charge. Do you want to see that legislation? Don't think so. Keep pushing the envelop and see what happens.
We all need to be mindful of how consumers will perceive and receive marketing material. Interestingly enough the flyer I got may technically violate a NYS licensing requirements and subject ADT to a fine, but that's not your problem.