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

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

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. I canceled the service and have 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.

I found the email for ADT's CEO and sent him an email last week pretty much outlining what I have told you. 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.

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.

But there's also a time for compassion, and I think this is one of them.

Under ADT's contract, you have a six-month trial period. If you decide to end your contract within that time, it will bill you 75 percent of the monthly service charges due for the balance of the initial contract term. There are no special circumstances in the contract under which a full refund would be warranted -- but there should be.

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. Instead, it did nothing.

As I look at the contract you signed with ADT, I'm struck by how one-sided it is. If customers cancel for any reason, they face penalties and charges, with no 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. The point is, that these one-sided "adhesion" contracts are not fair to consumers.

I contacted ADT on your behalf. A representative called you to apologize. The company withdrew its $2,089 bill.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at

© 2023 Christopher Elliott


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