All about contracts, cancellation, and guarantees.
Avoid long-term contracts.
- Don’t commit to a 3-year contract. It’s not in your best interests, regardless of what the salesperson says.
- Don’t prepay for long periods (6mo, 1yr) unless the company refunds unused months of service.
- Most companies make it easy to cancel, but they don’t all return your prepaid months.
- Some companies offer a money-back guarantee so you can try the service. Many don’t. As long as you’re not stuck in a long-term contract, this isn’t a big deal.
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There’s one famous company that requires a 3-year contract for their service. They claim it’s for your protection, so they won’t raise their rates on you. But if you read the complaint forums on the internet, you quickly see that this company provides service many people aren’t happy with and then they can’t get out of the contract.
Even when you die, someone has to produce a death certificate before they will stop billing you.
In contrast, most companies will stop billing you after you call them and then return the equipment to them. Done.
DO NOT agree to a long term contract, no matter what the salesperson says. It’s not in your best interest.
Instead, choose a company that knows it has to provide excellent service in order to keep you.
A second kind of long-term contract to watch out for
Some companies offer pre-payment discounts. They advertise their prices as “as low as $xx.xx per month,” but that’s only if you pay for a year in advance. The regular monthly rate is usually $5 to $8 a month more if you pay by the month. Some companies only offer quarterly payments.
The crucial question is what happens if you decide to quit before the pre-payment term is up.
Different companies do it differently.
Some will refund unused months. Others will keep your advance payment.
For this reason I DO NOT recommend jumping straight into a one-year prepayment with a company when you’re just starting out with their system. Try it for a few months on a month-to-month or quarterly basis. If it’s not a good fit, cancel. If you like it and it makes sense to pre-pay, do it then, once you’re confident in the system.
In my system reviews I try to specify what the refund policy is on pre-payments.
By cancellation policies, we’re talking about what happens when you decide you don’t need the system anymore. This could be because the user has died, or because they’ve moved into an assisted living facility. Or it could be that something better has come along, or your needs have changed.
Most companies have decent cancellation policies, but they do vary. As noted above, some have contracts that prevent you from canceling. That’s bad.
For most other companies, all you have to do is call the company and let them know you want to cancel. They’ll stop billing you once they receive the equipment they lent you.
Some will refund any unused months that you’ve already paid for. Others won’t.
Money back guarantees
A few medical alarm companies have strong money back guarantees, usually for a 30-day period. If you return the unit within 30 days, they will credit you back the fees you have paid.
Some companies will charge you for any shipping costs, or charge a restocking fee.
Other companies do not have a guarantee. Instead, you sign up for an initial 1-3 month term. If you’re not happy you can cancel, but you don’t get any money back.
If a risk-free trial period is important to you, be sure to look for a company that offers it. Don’t assume they all do, and don’t assume that the big names you’re familiar with do.
You’ve made it through these four lessons and are now much better informed than the average consumer. Congratulations!
From here, make your choice to look at
- Standard systems if you’re homebound
- Mobile systems if you’re “active” (or hybrid systems)
- No fee systems if cost is your overriding concern
If you still have questions, try reading my overview article providing senior life alert buying advice. It covers some of the same material and a few different things you might want to consider.