• Report: #90918

Complaint Review: Monitronics International

  • Submitted: Mon, May 10, 2004
  • Updated: Sat, June 19, 2004

  • Reported By:Oneonta Alabama
Monitronics International
www.monitronicsinternational.com Dallas, Texas U.S.A.

Monitronics International ripoff misrepresented contract difficult to deal with unaccessible even by mail Dallas Texas

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: How to get out of a Monitronics Contract

*Consumer Suggestion: There is HOPE!

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To all those people out there who have written a rip-off report about Monitronics, I wish I had known about this site about 18 months ago. In March of 2000, my husband and I moved into a brand new house in the Little Elm area (32 miles north of Dallas). We had an alarm system installed by Dynamic Creations out of Corinth, Texas. The contract was for 2 years ending in March 2002. The contract we had with Dynamic Creations had the option of continuing ona month to month basis after the initial contract term was up, which was going to work out perfectly for us because we new that we would be moving in November of 2002. My husband is in the Navy and we were only stationed in Dallas for 3 years (October 1999-October 2002).

Well, all things would have been fine and dandy except that in August of 2000, Dynamic Creations was bought out by Monitronics. A Monitronics rep came to the house and went over the contract with us. The first questionthat we asked was what was the difference in the cost (only about $3.00/month) and would it add any additional time onto our contract> The representative stated that it would only continue the existing contract under its terms and not add any additional months.

March of 2002 rolls around and I pay what I think is the last payment, then I get a notice stating that we are late with the April payment. This starts a roller coaster ride that has yet to end. I did pay from April 2002 until September 2002 when we vacated the house. I called to get the alarm system switched off and theyinformed me that I still had another year on the contract.

I have written to them numerous times to no avail. I have written the collection company that they turned the account over to to state that this is not a valid debt. I have retained a lawyer to get the matter taken care of. I have not lived in that house since August of 2002 and refuse to pay for something that I can't use. We had a renter in the house and she did not want the alarm system and the house that we moved to was a rental and the landlord would not allow it due to the age of the house. Most companies have a millitary clause in their contract that states if you move more than 50 miles from the original point of service, you are no longer abligated for that service. I even sent them a copy of my husband's order with our transfer from Dallas, TX to Jacksonville, FL.

I think we should flood the Monitronics International office with letters stating our dissatisfaction with their service continually until we get some things resolved with them. It's no wonder that Dallas has taken them off the Better Business Bureau list.

Oneonta, Alabama

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 05/10/2004 06:56 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Monitronics-International/Dallas-Texas/Monitronics-International-ripoff-misrepresented-contract-difficult-to-deal-with-unaccessib-90918. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

How to get out of a Monitronics Contract

AUTHOR: John - (U.S.A.)

As a former employee of 2 years in the customer service/subscriber sales department, I can offer some solutions for individuals caught in the automatic renewal.

First, a short explanation of the most common situation:

Monitronics is not in the business of installing alarm systems. They only monitor the system after it is installed by an independent dealer/installer. The installer/dealer will have customers sign a monitoring agreement (contract) which is typically 36 months, although I have seen many 24, 48, and even 60 month contracts. When I was employed by Monitronics, the company was purchasing these contracts from the dealers.

They would pay what is called a "multiple". For instance, of the contract is for a period of 36 months, and the purchasing company pays a "36 Multiple", then they have paid the full value of the contract. The number of multiples vary between dealers and alarm companies, but the point is that the monitoring company is buying these customers. In order for the monitoring company to turn a profit on the account, they include the "auto-renewal" clause in the contract.

Now, I have seen literally thousands of these contracts. While there are some variations between the different dealers, the majority of the contracts do state in plain language that in order to cancel, written notice of cancellation must be received a certain period of time prior to the scheduled end of the initial or renewal period. Probably 9 times out of 10, the contract will actually require 90 days written notice, but Monitronics allows a 60 day grace period, and only requires 30 days. The customer service reps may try to tell you that this is for your safety, when it is obviously to ensure that they continue billing you.

Now, I know that 3 years is a long time to remember when you have to send a letter to cancel your alarm service. Most of the customers that I dealt with didn't even think about their alarm contract a single time until they realized they couldn't cancel. There are some ways to avoid this trap, though.

1. Contrary to what the sales person or the customer service reps may tell you, you can send a cancellation letter any time during the service period. It will NOT take effect until the end of the contract. My suggestion to anyone who is purchasing an alarm system from ANY company is to send them a written letter of notification that you wish to continue on a month to month basis after the initial term. I cannot speak for other companies, but Monitronics will honor these written requests, so long as they are received at least 30 days prior to the end of the contract. This means that your service will continue, but your contract will renew month to month, rather than 12 months or more. This will protect you if you move after the initial contract period, or simply decide you don't want the service any longer.

I have talked to several hundred customers of M.I. as a CSR, and I always informed them of this process. Unfortunately, there are employees for both Monitronics and the individual dealers who either don't know or don't care about protecting the customer.

2. Again, I can't speak for the other monitoring companies, but Monitronics does offer you 3 options of getting out of your contract if you are trapped in a renewal.

First: You can complete what is called a "Subsriber Move". What happens here is usually, the customer signs a new 36 month agreement, and Monitronics will pay to intall a brand new, basic alarm system in your new home. This cancels out the previous contract, and you are only left with the new agreement, which will also contain a renewal clause. Any cancellation letter you sent under the prior contract will be void after the new agreement is signed, so it is necessary to go throught the entire process again to protect yourself from the renewal.

Second: You can complete what is called a "New Owner Takeover". This is an excellent option to get free and clear from your contract or renewal if you have moved, but requires that the new owner of your home with the alarm system sign a contract for service with Monitronics directly. If they happen to sign the contract with the original installing dealer, then Monitronics will purchase that account separately, and you will still be held to your contract. If the New Owner signs the contract directly with Monitronics, then you can be released from your contract, assuming that the New Owner signs for at least the number of months left on your contract or renewal. As a matter of good sense, I would always request a written letter signed by a manager at Monitronics stating that you are released from your contract.

Third: You can request a "Transfer" of your service. This happens when you are not able to install an alarm in your new home, and the new owner refuses service. You can actually have a 3rd party sign a contract on your behalf, usually for 36 months, and Monitronics will isntall a brand new system in the 3rd party's home. Again, I would always request a letter of release from Monitronics when this is completed.

Anytime you move from a home with contracted alarm monitoring, it is important to call the alarm company as soon as possible to find out your options. At Monitronics, you need to contact the "Subscriber Move Group" (unless they have changed the name of the department since I left the company. Keep in mind that I have not been employed there for over 6 months, so some of these policies, department names, or managers may have changed.)

If all of the above options fail, it is still possible to cancel your service. This is tricky and takes some time, and any and every employee at the company will deny that this is even possible. While I would never condone verbally abusing a customer service representative (after all, I used to be one, and they are only doing what they are paid to do. It is the managers, supervisors, and leads that have the decision making authority), keep in mind the old adage that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".

I personally witnessed numerous occassions when a customer was vigilant and persistant enough, that they could actually talk the company into cancelling a contract. Now this only works if the contract is in renewal. If it is still in the initial term, you may as well send them a check, because they will recover their costs.

Here is an example of what happened to me one time on a customer cancellation call. Now, keep in mind that I was never a supervisor, only a CSR with no authority. I don't guarantee that this method will work for you, but it did for a couple of customers that I worked with:

A customer called in to cancel his contract because he was moving. He was in renewal, and was informed by the rep that took the call that he could not cancel during a renewal. He was offered the options that I outlined above, and declined them all. He was informed that he would be responsible for the contract through the renewal period. Obviously, the customer was angry and requested to speak to a supervisor. Now it gets interesting...

The manager of the department refused to take the call and directed me to act as a supervisor and handle the "escalated call". At no point was I to offer to cancel the service, but merely to inform the customer from a "supervisor" that he would be bound to the contract.

I took the call, informed the customer, and was shouted and cursed at for several minutes. Now, at Monitronics, they believe in the best and most courteous customer service, so I could not simply disconnect the call during this abuse. I couldn't hang up until the customer did. After telling the customer numerous times that this was policy and I could not help him, he demanded to speak to the department manager. This guy was in it for the long haul, and I knew I wouldn't get him off my phone.

During this entire conversation, the manager is sitting directly behind me telling me what to say, but refusing to take the call. I informed the guy that the manager was unavailable, and wouldn't be able to cancel it anyway. The customer then starts wanting to talk to Jim Hull, the CEO.

Now, I needed this job, so I never once considered actually transferring this irate customer to the CEO, and informed him that I couldn't transfer him becuase Mr. Hull does not handle customer complaints. He still persists, and I let the manager know what is happening. By now, she thinks that I am incompetent because I can't get this guy mad enough to hang up. (for the record, I made it a point to not be rude to a customer)

Eventually, the manager tells the REAL supervisor (actually a lead) to take the call and get the guy off the phone. The REAL supervisor takes the call, and goes through the same thing. The customer is still demanding to be transferred to the CEO. Finally, the manager takes the call, confident that she can diffuse the situation with her brilliant customer service skills, HAHA.

At this point, I was forced to take another call, so I didn't hear the conversation that followed, but I continued for the next week or so to check the notes on the account. Everytime you speak to someone at MOnitronics, they enter notes about the conversation, which leaves a traceable record of customer service issues.

Immediately after the manager gets off the phone, I checked the notes on that account, and LO and BEHOLD, she transferred him to the CEO's assistant. I couldn't believe it, but the assistant had also noted the account that she forwarded the call to Linda Banks, who at the time was the director of customer relations.

A couple of days later, I see a note on the account that Linda Banks was cancelling the account out of "goodwill".

Now, like I said, I don't encourage anyone to verbally abuse a customer service rep by yelling or cursing or calling them names. They can't help what the management makes them do. And keep in mind they are only making about $11.00 per hour to be abused by you. Have pity on the CSR's.

The most important thing to remember is to read any contract that you sign. Do not take any sales person at their word unless they back it up in writing. Know what your rights are, and take advantage of them. If you sign a 36 month contract, remember that the company has invested as much in your account as you have, and they WILL recover that cost, and you are responsible for it. The renewal is simply to make the company money, and there are ways around paying for it if you aren't using the service.

I hope this helps some people out. Good Luck.
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#2 Consumer Suggestion

There is HOPE!

AUTHOR: Juliann - (U.S.A.)

I have been fighting Monitronics for 2 years. Today I received a letter stating our contract was canceled and we have no further obligation to Monitronics.

I sent some of the following people emails regularly. I would forward them links to sites like this.

jhull@Monitronics.com Jim Hull PRESIDENT
rhudson@Monitronics.com Rick Hudson VP
SWillcock@Monitronics.com Shirley Willcock LEGAL
aplummer@Monitronics.com Executive Response Department
vstrickland@Monitronics.com Executive Response Department
kritschel@Monitronics.com Executive Response Department Lead

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