Recently a website visitor got in touch with me to ask me my opinion about the SafeGuardian Responder cellular medical alarm system. He’d seen it on the SafeGuardian website, but couldn’t figure out where to find any third-party reviews or any other information. He asked me to review the product page to see if I could see any red flags.
This is a very small cellular-based medical alert that works anywhere you have a cell signal. It has a small speaker and a small microphone in the unit, and the battery lasts for 30 to 60 days between charges. Though it doesn’t have “GPS,” it does locate itself by reference to cell towers.
I went to visit the product page, and thought the product looked pretty good.
Then I looked a little closer at the SafeGuardian website.
I went to their terms and conditions of sale page to see what their return policy was.
Turns out, as far as I could tell, their return policy wasn’t very friendly. Here’s an excerpt, as accessed on 1/11/2014.
Order Return & Refund Policy
SafeGuardian makes every effort to insure your complete satisfaction. Unless otherwise noted on each item, you may return any product purchase within fourteen (14) days of delivery. If you are not delighted with your purchase, simply return it us postage-paid & postmarked within fourteen days of receipt following the instructions below. Returns will not be accepted and no refunds will be issued after fourteen days of postmarked receipt. All sales after 14 days are considered final.
PLEASE NOTE: Original shipping charges, one-time account set-up and/or activation fees and pre-paid monitoring service plans are non-refundable. (emphasis in original)
It’s a pretty short return period. (Though to be fair some 30-day return policies from other companies start on the day the order is placed, so if it takes a week or more to reach you, then you effectively have a 21-day return policy, or thereabouts.)
And it’s pretty standard not to refund outbound shipping charges, or to offer to pay for return shipping charges.
But the activation fees charged by SafeGuardian can range from 0 to $99. These are non-refundable.
Pre-paid monitoring services are not refundable, either. This is a stumper to me. For one of their products, they offer an annual plan for $288. By their return policy, if you paid for this plan when you ordered your system, then needed to return within the first 14 days, you lose your payment.
So what does the return policy cover? Apparently, just the unit itself. Prices range from $39 to $149, when I glanced at a few products online.
And there’s a 20% restocking fee.
But that begs another question. Why should you have to pay for the equipment? Most vendors in this category lease you the equipment as part of your monthly fee. SafeGuardian appears to charge for the equipment, then charge market or above-market rates for monitoring. Seems like they win both ways.
This is not a return policy I can recommend to any consumer, considering that other vendors of the same equipment have much more consumer-friendly policies.
Oh, and by the way, your return needs to be in the same condition as when it arrived: “All packages shipped back to SafeGuardian MUST be in new and resalable condition, in the undamaged manufacturer’s original carton and contain all original packaging materials, parts and accessories.” So be careful with it.
There’s something else I learned in the small print.
It really took me by surprise.
Monitoring & Service Agreements
Customers ordering a professionally-monitored wireless medical alarm, cellular medical alarm or personal SOS help alert system are required to read, acknowledge and accept a Monitoring Services Agreement and authorize re-occurring billing prior to commencing service. These agreements are by and between you and the system service provider. Customers understand and accept that SafeGuardian is a retailer of third-party products and services only. SafeGuardian does not manufacture any of the products available from the online retail store and SafeGuardian does not offer or provide its own monitoring or cellular service plans. (emphasis added!)
There are two reasons this stunned me.
First, throughout the website this company names its products with their company name. As you can see in the attached screenshot, the products they sell are named with their company name. “SafeGuardian Protector Max,” for example.
It turns out the “SafeGuardian Protector Max” is just their name for the off-the-shelf medical alert they are buying and reselling.
It’s not a problem to resell products. But it get’s weird when you rename them, doesn’t it? We are accustomed to seeing a brand and understanding that there is a connection between the name and the manufacturer. After all, a “Ford Focus” is not simply any random car sold by a Ford dealer at a relatively low price point. It’s a particular car MADE BY FORD.
It’s also interesting that they specifically disclaim any relationship between them and the monitoring service provider. Apparently the contract you make for monitoring is between you and the monitoring center, not SafeGuardian, but SafeGuardian will still be collecting the $29 or more per month for the service.
Would it be helpful to know that “Central Stations,” which is the industry term for alarm monitoring centers, charge about $8 a month for medical alarm monitoring services? $8 to $29 is a pretty good spread, especially if all you’re doing is passing on the money without taking any responsibility or liability.
Now, it’s not unusual for companies to outsource their monitoring services. In many cases this can allow a company to provide better service than if they tried to own and manage the monitoring center themselves. But I’ve never seen a company try to get out of the relationship like this. It doesn’t sit well.
The other reason I was shocked is that throughout their site, they repeatedly refer to “our US based monitoring centers” as if they owned them.
Don’t miss the sentence that reads, “We are NOT like other alarm monitoring companies who choose to cut costs by outsourcing their call centers overseas.”
No, you’re not like that. You’re like a reseller who isn’t even an alarm monitoring company, and you choose to cut costs by not just outsourcing your call center but removing yourself from the contractual relationship.
After reading the “small print” from this medical alert reseller, there’s no way I could feel comfortable recommending to anyone that they purchase from this company, not when there are so many other alternatives.
The reason I write all this is not just to pick on SafeGuardian, but also to illustrate why buying a medical alert can be so confusing for so many people. It’s because of the misleading and incomplete web pages and unfriendly return policies.
I welcome corrections if I’ve misrepresented or misunderstood anything on the SafeGuardian webpage.