ADT is arguably the most recognizable name in home security. It excels in home automation and offers all the technology you need to turn your home into a fortress. It even offers hard-to-find medical alert protection. But the company recently found itself the subject of several lawsuits, and was fined by the Federal Trade Commission for paying several security experts to endorse its products and pass them off as unbiased reviews. It’s also not a good choice for those on a budget: There’s no pricing information online, and all equipment must be paid for upfront. You may want to consider another company like Frontpoint, which is known for transparency and customer service.
ADT is virtually unmatched when it comes to technology. It offers your standard door and window sensors, plus motion and glass break sensors and surveillance cameras. There’s also the option to add smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that link into your security system, so if there’s a fire or a gas leak, ADT will know and alert the authorities. In addition, ADT is one of the few home security providers that offers medical alert pendants, which are great for older adults in the home. Where ADT really excels, though, is home automation: You can seamlessly control your security system, lights, garage door, thermostat, and door locks from your smartphone or computer anywhere in the world.
ADT can fortify your home with the latest and greatest tech, but customer reviews and recent lawsuits leave room for improvement in the service department.
Customer service is another story. Of its 153 Better Business Bureau customer reviews, 144 reported a negative experience with the company; over 95 percent of respondents said they were unlikely to recommend ADT to a friend. Complaints range widely, from reports of faulty equipment to regular price increases to long hold times on the phone to incompetent service technicians.
ADT’s recent legal troubles might be even more worrisome. The Federal Trade Commission fined ADT in 2014 for false advertising after ADT paid home security experts to go to several media outlets — including NBC’s “Today” — show to promote their security system. The experts were paid several thousand dollars for their endorsement, but their connection to ADT was never revealed. Several customers also sued ADT for system failure during break-ins that resulted in robbery, assault, and even a double murder. In most of these cases, ADT denied responsibility.
A Closer Look at ADT’s Features
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- Must contact company for quote: Unlike some of its competitors, ADT doesn’t list any pricing information on their website. You must contact a representative who will first help you design a custom system and then give you a quote. ADT’s refusal to share pricing makes it difficult for comparison shoppers to evaluate equipment costs across separate providers.
- Money-back guarantee: If you’re dissatisfied with your ADT security system, you can return it within the first six months and ADT will refund your installation fee and any monitoring costs.
- Six monitoring centers: ADT owns six monitoring centers across North America to assist you if there’s an emergency. Your signal will be transmitted to the nearest monitoring center and a representative will contact both you and the appropriate authorities to ensure you’re safe.In the event of a service disruption of service, your account is transferred to another monitoring station, so you’re always protected.
- Cellular monitoring: ADT’s Remote and Video packages come standard with cellular monitoring (you can add it to the Traditional package for an extra fee). Cellular monitoring is considered more secure than landline monitoring because the latter can be disabled if intruders cut your phone line.
- Environmental protection: In addition to the standard intrusion sensors and cameras, ADT offers smoke, carbon monoxide, and flood alarms that connect to your security system. If any of these alarms go off, the monitoring center is notified so they can send assistance your way.
- Excels in home automation: ADT offers the most advanced home automation technology of any home security provider. Using its web interface or mobile app, you can arm and disarm your system, check your security camera feeds, adjust the temperature and lights, and lock and unlock your doors. You can even create customized modes that automatically adjust your home to predetermined settings with a single click. ADT also partners with third parties like the Ring Video Doorbell and the Nest Learning Thermostat to make syncing them with your ADT system simple.
- Medical alert systems: ADT is one of the few home security companies that also offers medical alert pendants. Older adults are often at a greater risk of injury from falls, and if they’re home alone, it can be a while before someone finds them. A medical alert pendant empowers them to call for help themselves, even if they can’t get to a phone.
What Others Are Saying
A lot of people are talking about ADT, but it hasn’t been good. Complaints have been severe enough to go beyond the customer service department into the mainstream media — and eventually the court system. The Denver Post explains the FTC complaint against ADT for deceptive advertising.
“ADT set up the media interviews through its public relations firms and booking agents ... The paid endorsers were introduced by show hosts and reporters as experts, and their connection to ADT was never revealed.”
WXYZ in Detroit reports that a man received an alert from ADT that his home had been broken into and the company had dispatched the authorities. When the man arrived home, however, he found the burglars still there — and no police officers. ADT denied responsibility for the incident, but offered a $100 credit. The homeowner commented, “I’m lucky to be alive.”
The SE Texas Record tells the story of a woman whose home was burglarized, despite an active ADT system. According to the article, she “was taken by force through several rooms in her home and forced to open a locked cabinet door. A large amount of cash and other items were taken.” She was then assaulted by the men and had to be rushed to the hospital. The woman sued ADT for failing to install motion detectors in the proper position, which she claimed would have prevented the attack.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune discusses a settlement ADT paid to the family of a couple shot in their bed after the security system failed to send out the alarm. The system wasn’t triggered until the couple’s children opened the front door to flee. The family sued ADT, claiming the company misrepresented the system’s capabilities and installed it improperly. ADT at first attempted to deny any responsibility, but eventually reached a settlement. The family’s lawyer expressed his concerns about the way ADT handled the case: “I’m still worried about their salesmanship, their puffery, not telling the truth…They’re afraid to admit the horrendous mistakes they made in their case because they could be used against them.”
Other Home Security Providers We Like
Where ADT comes up short, Frontpoint excels. It is extremely transparent about its pricing and customers have reported a high degree of satisfaction with their service. No major lawsuits have been filed against it. Frontpoint has three cellular monitoring packages to choose from, and you can customize the number and type of sensors in the system. Frontpoint doesn’t require you to speak to a representative before making a purchase, nor do you have to pay an installation fee. Installing the sensors is as simple as sticking them to a wall, and they’re easy to move if you ever want to take them with you.
LiveWatch LiveWatch offers two easy-to-install equipment bundles that can be equipped with several different monitoring plans. Add-on options are plenty, and customers are only required to sign a 12-month monitoring contract.
LiveWatch is similar to ADT and Frontpoint: There are three highly customizable packages to choose from. Like Frontpoint, all of LiveWatch’s prices are clearly listed on their website, obviating the need to call for a quote. All plans come standard with wireless monitoring and Crash & Smash protection, which prevents intruders from disabling your alarm system by destroying the control panel.
Protect America is a good choice if you can’t afford the high upfront costs of the other companies on this list. It offers five customizable security packages; all come with $1,400 of free equipment when you sign a three-year service contract. Protect America doesn’t list pricing information on its website, so you’ll have to speak to a representative. Compared to competitors, that credit will get you far: The equipment for a basic system only costs about $400 to $500.
Like Protect America, Vivint offers $1,500 of free equipment and free installation, but they require a five-year contract (instead of the industry-standard three-year contract). Vivint doesn’t publish its pricing; you must call to get a quote. There are three security packages to choose from, but the cheapest should work for most people. Pricier packages just add home automation features.
If You Can’t Afford A Security System, Go DIY
ADT may be out of reach for those on a tight budget. Equipment costs can range anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on how large your home is and how many sensors you need — and that doesn’t include the monthly monitoring fee. But if you can’t afford all that, you have options.
Lower equipment costs and the lack of a monitoring fee make a DIY security system significantly more affordable than a system like ADT. But there’s also no one watching besides you: You can buy home security systems with sensors that set off alarms in the house, and some versions send an alert to your phone — but typically that’s the extent of capabilities. Some thieves may be scared off by the alarm sound, but determined burglars may stick around long enough to steal a few valuables before departing.
An even cheaper option is forgoing a security system altogether. There are several simple things you can do to beef up security around your home and make it a less appealing target to thieves, including:
- Install strong locks on your doors and windows. At minimum these can slow thieves down, and it may deter them entirely. Thieves look for fast and easy targets, so anything that keeps them busy and out in the open increases risk of getting caught. If it takes a long time to pick your sophisticated lock, they could move on.
- Place motion-detecting lights outside. A thief’s goal is to sneak in unnoticed, so a sudden spotlight alerting nearby residents of their presence may cause them to think twice about coming any closer.
- Trim back bushes near your home. These are ideal hiding places for burglars and may even give them a concealed entrance if they’re close to a window.
- Buy a dog. The size of the dog doesn’t matter. Even a little dog’s bark can quickly attract attention, which is exactly what a thief doesn’t want.
- Set up a fake security system. Order a security system yard ornament and put up some fake security cameras. Thieves who notice these may think twice about targeting your home.
- Put lights on a timer. Lights turning on and off at usual times can create the the illusion that you’re home when you aren’t.
The Bottom Line
ADT is well known, but it isn’t well liked. It offers all the right tools and the fanciest tech, but in practice, it doesn’t always come through for you when you need it most. Unless owning the latest in home security tech is of utmost importance, we recommend choosing a competitor known for transparency and customer satisfaction like Frontpoint or LiveWatch.