ADT is stonewalling me — should I stop paying my bill?

Krishnan Ramanathan is being double-billed for his home security system. Should he just stop paying it?

Question: About two months back, we moved to a new residence. Our ADT residential security service is in my wife’s name, although I handle most of the activities, including payments. We called ADT before our move and scheduled an appointment (incidentally on the same day that we moved into our new home). The sales rep who met us told us that since we have been longtime ADT customers (about 7 years), the installation, activation etc. would be free of charge and I just had to pay the monthly charges.

Meanwhile in our previous home, we had been making semi-annual payments and the sales rep told us that our first statement would be adjusted based on past payments. The actual service activation for our new home was not until a month after we moved in, since they couldn’t find any earlier day that was convenient to us.

The installation and activation went smoothly until we received our first statement and discovered that the past payment was not adjusted. So I called ADT billing and after almost a hour of being moved around between the billing, move, and new customer activation departments, I was finally curtly told that since the account was in my wife’s name, she would have to call in to make any changes to the same.

A day later my wife called and after the same merry-go-round with the phone, she was told that the service at the old residence itself has not been deactivated, which is why no credit had been applied. The rep on the phone asked us repeatedly whether we wanted to disconnect the service at the old home and we simply told him not to make any changes so that we could confer with the sales rep who had come to our home.

Of course, since then, the particular sales rep has been hard to reach and he hasn’t answered any of my phone calls. Though there is no record of the phone conversation, the only trail I have is an IM chat I had with the sales rep, when he had confirmed that the service at our old home has been deactivated and we should get credit for the past payments already made.

ADT’s site has a web-based form to submit a request, which limits the user to 500 characters. Even after submitting a request online, ADT has not contacted us.

I have refrained from making any payments to ADT and I will refuse to do so until they acknowledge the fix on their end. However, I am worried that they might send the bill to collections if I do not make payments. Please help!

Krishnan Ramanathan, San Francisco

Answer: ADT should have closed your account when it promised it would, instead of keeping two accounts open. While I can understand how the company might be confused if there’s a lag time between your move date and activating your new home’s alarm system, it’s no excuse.

By the way, you shouldn’t feel as if you’re limited to the 500 characters ADT offers on its site. It lists the names of its executives on its website. Email addresses at ADT follow the convention So with a little guesswork, you can appeal your case directly to someone who can find a fast resolution.

I’m not sure if you should have stopped paying your bill. That’s an extreme measure, and you’re right, it can result in your account being closed and referred to a collection agency. I can think of several intermediate steps, up to and including an appeal to a manager, that might have yielded better results.

By the way, nice work in keeping screenshots of your conversation with the ADT rep. A reliable paper trail, as you know, is key to fixing a problem. It may even let you shortcut the seemingly endless “hold” times you and your wife experienced, as long as you send your message to the right person.

I contacted ADT on your behalf. The company investigated your claim and agreed to close your old account and begin charging your new one when it said it would. It mailed you a refund of $97 to cover the erroneous billing to your previous account.

Should you ever stop paying a bill?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    “The rep on the phone asked us repeatedly whether we wanted to disconnect the service at the old home and we simply told him not to make any changes so that we could confer with the sales rep who had come to our home.”

    so basically they were going to fix it but the OP wanted the fix PLUS the credit.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Can you cancel a home security contract without penalty? If so, I’m sure there are numerous other vendors who would be happy to have your business. If I get enough crappy service, I’ll change vendors. Alas, if only I could do so with my cable bill.

  • backprop

    What “fix”? They had already been in their new home well over a month according to the story. During that time, they had incorrectly paid for two services – one at the old house and one at the new. Turning off service to the old house at that point wouldn’t have “fixed” anything.

    I don’t blame them for trying to keep it less complicated and getting a credit back to the move-out day. When you start throwing in service changes after the date in question, you may never get resolution of the original problem.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    It’s my opinion that, in general, these home security companies are pretty much rip-offs.

    You can buy door and window sensors, a main unit, and a couple of keyfobs for less than most of them charge for installation, and hook it up yourself. Plug in the telephone line into the main unit, program it, and when the alarm goes off, it dials your cell phone, and turns on the microphone, so you can hear on your cell phone what’s going on inside the house.

    I haven’t personally looked, but I’d be shocked if I couldn’t find smoke or Co2 alarms that can be tied into the system as well.

    So, what exactly I would be paying $40 a month for?

    P.S. I’ve even seen some system that take a SIM chip, and will call you via cell. No landline needed. Of course, you’ll need to get some bare bones cell service activated, most likely the cheapest prepaid plan you can find. But, that’s probably will still be cheaper than the home security company.

  • fshaff

    At my previous residence, I had ADT service. However, we sold our home and moved to another state, more than 1500 miles away. We were under contract with ADT (I think it was for 2-yrs), so all we had to do was to pay an early termination fee. All went well with the billing, however, every once in awhile, we get an automated call from ADT that our alarm is going off!!?? We have repeatedly told them that we no longer live there and to stop the calls. It’s been 6-yrs since we moved and it appears that the calls have finally stopped. We never had any trouble with the account, just the annoying alert calls.

  • EdB

    If you are paying more than $15/month for alarm monitoring, you are paying too much.

  • emanon256

    I voted no. We have seen too many cases where someone was locked into an old rate, and for whatever reason stopped paying, and was now subject to the new much higher rate. Also if you are using the service, I think to stop paying the bill is a bit to extreme, give the company a chance to work things out. Refusing to pay for something you are currently using because you are waiting on an adjustment is just as bad if not worse than what the incompetent company is doing.

    That was my response to the poll. In response to the story, shame on ADT. They appear to have very poor customer service. However, I do understand how its hard when the service contract is in one persons name and someone not on the contract is calling and making services requests. But this should have been cleared up 100% when the OPs wife called as the service was in her name. In fact, I am surprised they allowed the OP to make changes to the service, that makes ADT look even worse in my opinion.

    When I used to manage a call center, we often had people call who were not named on the account and try to make changes. We could not make these changes. They always argued, “But I am the one who pays the bill.” Doesn’t matter. We have a contract with Mrs. X, we only makes changes made by Mrs. X. I trained my staff to tell them much more nicely than I just put it. But when it escalated enough, I told it like it was.

  • Owassonian

    Home security contracts usually go for 3 years or so, if the original equipment is offered for free/nominal cost and installation is discounted. Past the contractual 3 or so years, you can cancel the service at any time. Chris mentioned that OP had the service for 7 years, which would allow him to cancel if required.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But that is a strange statement by the OP and likely made the problem worse. Obviously, the old address was going to need to be disconnected. It should have been a surprise to them to find out it hadn’t already been disconnected, given they were in the boat of having no security system in the home where they were living but still a system in their old place. They should have told them to stop the service, making it clear they’d been promised it would be stopped so they could get a credit. But by explicitly saying they didn’t want the service stopped, they basically made it their decision rather than a mistake on the company’s part.

    And depending on a sales rep to fix things is a crapshoot, given they are notorious for promising things that can’t be delivered and not fully understanding how processes actually work. (And I’m talking across all industries, not just alarm companies.) They could have had the service stopped and still hounded the rep to make things right. It wasn’t an either/or situation.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That’s great info. Thanks.

    I’ll also note the old gag–which I think is pretty much reality–that what you are really paying for is the sign you put in the front yard. The whole goal is to make a thief move along to an easier target. And it’s the sign and/or the stickers on the windows that does that, not the actual security system.

  • EdB

    I never have used a security service like this so not sure how they work their contract. But there could be either some sort of auto renewal or you could have to sign a new contract.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t know. I like the idea that the alarm company takes responsibility for calling the police if the alarm is tripped.

  • emanon256

    I wonder where I can buy just the sign and stickers :) In my neighborhood, several people have reported that their burglar alarm signs were stolen. I found that ironic.

  • DavidYoung2

    Funny, your post is the first to address Chris’ question. I agree with you, and would add a couple of things. First, when you stop paying a bill it escalates the adversarial environment. How is that helpful?
    Second, you now have an additional complication of getting collections involved. Then when it’s all settled, you have to deal with the credit ramifications.
    Third, your nuclear option is to sue for a refund in Small Claims court. Here in California it’s $35 to file and trust me, once you file you certainly have their full attention.

  • EdB

    Another option in California is to contact the State licensing agency for alarm services. Most likely the Department of Business Oversight. I used them for another issue I had and got immediate resolution. I’m sure there is equivalent agencies in most states.

  • nateisfunny

    I agree with you, though you probably wouldn’t get the same discount on your homeowner’s insurance (I don’t know what amount that would be).

  • DMM

    I don’t think you should stop paying for your bills just keep a tab of how much you are owed in refund or credit and be pushy for a fast resolution that sometimes means to do detective work whether it be finding the corporate/executive offices contacts or finding out who resolves escalated issues such as this. If you don’t get any resolve that way I have had success until recently with the BBB. It took me filing 2 BBB Claims, 1 to FCC and then finally reaching out to Mr. Elliott for me to get my issue resolved with Sprint. It took 2 months but it got resolved but I paid my bill through it all. Persistence is key!

  • William_Leeper

    You can actually buy just the signs and stickers at Home Depot or Lowes. Just look on the home security aisle.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Cool tip. Thanks!

  • Alan Gore

    Whenever you are given a change of status in a phone call, in this case “Service will be disconnected as requested on date X”, you should get a confirmation number. If they don’t have confirmation numbers, ask them to at least send an email.

  • Sam Petersen

    When we looked into it, the discount on the insurance didn’t even begin to help against the monthly cost of the system

  • Jim Doll

    Funny, the Ad that AdChoices Pops up are ad’s for ADT …..

  • Goldie

    Nothing funny about it. They are targeted ads based on the content of the page. Talk about ADT, you going to get ADT ads.

  • omgstfualready

    I agree not paying is a high risk route; what is your opinion of paying part of the bill, just not all of it. Would that show some good will on the consumer’s part that they want to continue the ‘relationship’ but don’t trust the company enough to return the overpaid funds. Seems like a reasonable route but I’m curious if there are risks I’m not thinking about.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I’ve actually wondered if people ever steal those signs. I ran into some of those signs at a store once, but they were a made-up company, not ADT or any of the big names. My first thought was that a crook would know they were fake and that what a person really needed was the sign from an actual company.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Only problem is that depending on where you live the police may not actually respond. I’ve seen articles about police in various places either declining to respond outright or making security company calls a very low priority, simply because so many turn out to be false alarms.

  • EdB

    I have also seen where they police/fire departments will send fines for the false alarms.

  • Charles B

    Watch out for the internet scam:

    A random popup add shows up and offers to send you free window stickers if you give them your address. If you reply, you’ve just told some random stranger a) where you live, and b) you don’t have a real alarm system there.

  • emanon256

    I like that idea, but then I thought of some repercussions. The company would have every right to still charge a late fee or terminate service if they choose, so it could still have negative reprocussions. I think since credit card companies will hold a customer harmless against a disputed charge while its investigated, a lot of people believe they have that right with other companies they do business with which is not the case unless specific in their agreement. I think the partial payment would be especially bad in the OPs case since he was paying for new service and waiting for a refund on the old service. He is lucky they didn’t charge him late fees or cut off his service.

  • emanon256

    Good call, I didn’t think about the fake signs. They are very likley to attract a robber. I wonder if it was other homeowners who stole the signs to put in their own yards.

  • omgstfualready

    My ADT signs were stolen, but not out of the ground. The agent left them for me at my house when the interior construction was still being finished. When I moved in a few weeks later my signs (and window stickers) were gone. I emailed ADT and asked how I could go about buying new ones and within a week a new set arrived at my house at no charge.