Free Speech

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
home security, non-disparagement, reviews

Companies:
adt



Home Security Company Says No One Linking To Its Website Is Allowed To Disparage It

from the lol-no dept

With a federal law in place forbidding this sort of stuff, and an internet full of documentation detailing just how badly things go for companies that institute these policies, why on earth would ADT Security add this clause to its Terms of Use?

For those of you who can't see the tweet, soon-to-be-former ADT customer scriptjunkie has been informed via dialog box ADT's Terms of Use have changed. ADT's Terms of Use contain a Streisand Precursor: if you link to ADT's site, you promise not to do several things, including:

Will not disparage ADT, ADT's products or services, or any of ADT's affiliates or their products or services

This isn't even legal in this day and age, but hiding it in a bunch of words users will likely never read is a great way to fly under the federal law radar. This, of course, only lasts until someone points it out on the internet and, while linking to ADT's site, points out the clause is stupid, the company is stupid for deploying it, and the company's lawyers are just as stupid for suggesting it/signing off on it.

To be fair, ADT's stupid non-disparagement clause isn't part of the update scriptjunkie received. The moronic "promise" it extracts from site linkers dates back to at least 2014. It predates the federal law banning these clauses, which makes its pre-2016 existence somewhat explicable. But that doesn't explain why it hasn't been removed to make the Terms of Use federal law-compliant.

Considering the amount of effort it would take (next to none) to remove this from the site's Terms of Use, its continued existence is perplexing, especially in light of ADT's repeated promise to remove the clause. At the time of this writing, more than 16 hours have passed since ADT promised to remove it and the clause still exists on the Terms of Use page. Even more perplexing is ADT's explanation/apology, which is actually neither.

We also value your honest opinion and have built our company around implementing our customers' feedback. The non-disparagement clause you are referencing only applies to linking to our website and is not a condition of service or using ADT.com.

While it's nice to know ADT isn't preventing people from disparaging the company without linking to its site, trying to prevent them from doing so while linking isn't any better. Review sites tend to provide links to company websites, making third-party reviews a potential violation of this clause.

But even if we take ADT's explanation at face value, we're still left with its questionable decision to insert this language anywhere in any explicit or implicit agreement with site visitors and/or customers. No business should ever take this indefensible position, especially not after it's been made statutorily explicit these agreements are considered invalid -- and illegal -- by the federal government.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:06pm

    Had to call the police

    Had to call the police on one of their cocky ass representatives that thought they were going to pull a high pressure sale on me.

    I told that little fuck to get off my porch before I called the police and he said... go right on ahead we have a great reputation with them so I said... lets find out.

    It all happened so fast I wished I had taken a picture of his fucking face before I dialed the police.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:14pm

    Small correction

    In the last blockquote, it references 'ADT.com'. However, the actual explanation/apology references 'myADT.com'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:13pm

      Re: Small correction

      Well, the language appears in both places. And has yet to be taken down (from either URL sharing the Terms of Use language) despite ADT's promises.

      https://www.adt.com/about-adt/legal/terms-of-use

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        radarmonkey (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 3:19pm

        Re: Re: Small correction

        As may be. I was not referring to the TOS, but to ADT's response on Twitter.

        Tim specifically calls out ADT's explanation/apology (and linked to the tweet with the graphic) then did a blockquote of that explanation/apology. The blockquote does not correctly quote what ADT said. It's minor, I know, but what's in Tim's article is not correct.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:21pm

    Follow up should be interesting...

    I wonder how hard they will make it for him to actually cancel the service...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:24pm

    "these agreements are considered invalid -- and illegal -- by the federal government."

    While legally unenforceable, such actions are not really "illegal" until the government decides to enforce its own laws, a utopian reality which we all know rarely happens against major corporations who choose to test the boundaries of the law.

    It's why contracts generally contain reams and reams of crap that is not just unethical, but totally unenforceable. Such tactics work because most people are willing to sign anything put in front of them and don't know what their legal rights really are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      It does not matter what is in a contract. If it is not legal on a state and Federal level it is unenforceable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:40pm

        Re: Re:

        If you can afford the lawyers to take it to court.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Christenson, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:44pm

        legality, enforcability, and possession...

        Dear IT Guy
        A contract means something that draws multiple parties together. Legality and legal enforceability in court are just one small piece of the picture -- if you don't believe me, just try taking your ISP to court for their frankly fraudulent promises over the phone.

        The phrase here is "possession is nine tenths of the law".

        Now, personally, if ADT is silly enough to not permit honest reviews, well, how can I expect their service to be anything more than a sign to amateur petty crooks:

        "hey! valuables here...free half hour pass!"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:19pm

          Re: legality, enforcability, and possession...

          Was it a signed contract between two parties that agree upon all terms and conditions?

          Used to be, EULA & TOS terms and conditions had not yet been tested in court as to whether they are actually enforceable contractual items. Has this changed?

          In addition, the part where the EULA or TOS says something to the effect that you agree to whatever future changes the company feels it is entitled to is ... ummm bullshit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2017 @ 2:03pm

          Re: legality, enforcability, and possession...

          1/2 hour? more like 3-4 hours if they can be arsed.

          Often they just hang up on customers and laugh.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        mcinsand, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:58pm

        barriers to fighting enforcement

        ADT used to have an automatic renewal where the customer/victim, 'contract' stipulated that the customer/victim could only discontinue service during the annual renewal month. That sort of practice is illegal in my state, but the legal costs of defending our state-granted rights are higher than waiting to drop their service.

        A truly sleazy company. I give them an 8 on the Comcast/AT&T scale.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:22pm

          Re: barriers to fighting enforcement

          I assume they collect the monthly fee via credit card or pull on an account. Arrangements like that are always highly suspect and should be avoided if at all possible.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:40pm

    Does it matter

    If it's not enforceable, who cares?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Does it matter

      Just because it's not enforceable, that doesn't mean you can't be sued over it.

      You could declare "it's not enforceable," and ignore it. But then you'd get a default judgement against you, with the court never considering the merits of the case or whether it was enforceable.

      Or you could fight it and win. And still be out tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

      Courts often work on the "Golden Rule:" Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:23pm

        Re: Re: Does it matter

        Or you could tell ADT you are not interested in their service and never do any business with them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: Does it matter

          As a friend of mine found out, that doesn't always work.

          - He buys a house.
          - It already has an alarm system.
          - Which is of little use, given that the police have announced that due to all the false alarms in the city, it won't respond to alarm calls without a human confirming the break-in.
          - ADT contacts him, informs him that the previous owner had a contract, and he's expected to honor it.
          - He declines. Not interested. Tells them to stop any monitoring.
          - ADT declares that it owns the alarm system until the contract is up, and he must let them rip it and all the sensors out.
          - He declines. He bought the house with all the fixtures. He knows the law; he owns the equipment. Any contract dispute ADT has is between them and the previous owner.
          - He also disconnects the power to the alarm system.
          - Weeks later angry police show up at his door. They've had several alarms from his home phoned in and confirmed by ADT, and this was the first time anyone was home when they showed up.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it matter

            Sounds like a juicy as fuck payout to me.

            Sure it might take a little time in court but several alarms from a security agency not in a contract with the current owner makes for some juicy legal gossip!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it matter

            They can of course claim a lien on the house. The homeowner might not find out about it until years later, when selling the house.

            Anyway, mortgage companies require everyone buying a house to get title insurance, which is supposed to take care of any lingering disputes between the previous owner and third parties.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 3:58pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it matter

            - Weeks later angry police show up at his door. They've had several alarms from his home phoned in and confirmed by ADT, and this was the first time anyone was home when they showed up.

            So extortion basically, lovely. 'Pay for our 'protection' or we'll crank-call the police on your behalf.' Can't help but think that if the police are even slightly intelligent that such a move would backfire badly on them, as you've got a 'security' company issuing fraudulent calls and wasting their time with false alarms.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bruce C., 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:36pm

        Re: Re: Does it matter...

        This is one area where a binding arbitration clause might actually save some money for the consumer. One and done rather than lengthy filings, counterclaims, trials and appeals.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Does it matter...

          The arbiter would rule according to the contract, written exclusively by the company.

          Plus it's the company that chooses the arbiter. The arbiter can expect future business from the company and not the customer, so they're always biased in favor of the company.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2017 @ 2:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it matter...

            99% of the time the "neutral" arbiter is actually an effective employee of the big company and is paid a "stipend" (i.e. a salary) behind the scenes.

            Usually covered up as "administration/consultation fees"

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 2:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: Does it matter...

          Binding arbitration is a scam, as one side (the company, not the consumer) gets to pick (and pay for) the arbitrators, who in their own self-interest tend to side with the party that hires them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 4:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Does it matter...

          When encountering binding arbitration,
          run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 12:51pm

    hey Tim, a question, do you or Techdirt use ADT? If so, you are breaking their ToS :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:27pm

    In the past, upon purchase and move in to a new home, one was deluged with water softener salespeople - now it seems to be home security people.

    I had to block several phone numbers because they would call every day. No is not an acceptable answer for these assholes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 1:55pm

    Beyond the fact that this clause is expressly unenforceable. How would enforce it even in principal? I've never been to any of their sites, but I can still link them without having done so:
    https://www.myadt.com/index.jsp

    And since I've never been to their site, I can't have even so much as clicked an accept button. In their twisted minds have they still somehow engaged in a contract with me? Am I in violation of their shitty EULA for a website I've never even been to and a company I've never had any dealings with for calling them, their service, and their website shitty?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 3:06pm

    There's another problem with those TOS. They're in a tiny, probably nonresizeable, window. It's unreasonable to tell anyone to view a supposedly binding contract like that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Dec 2017 @ 3:15pm

    I wish they had taken me up on my offer.
    Fire the moron responsible, give me half the salary & I'd fix it for them.

    The insane "apology's" trying to claim it meant something other than what it clearly said, when what they claimed it REALLY meant was in a separate clause right below it.

    I suppose if I wanted them to take my offer, I shouldn't have tagged the FTC into the thread...
    But it was fun screaming how bad their service had to be to use this sort of clause & then telling their social media team they needed to wake up someone important because they are breaking the law.

    https://twitter.com/That_AC/status/937164218570244096

    It's not easy being this much of an ass, but I can do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2017 @ 10:31pm

    ADT is a piece of S.H.I.T.

    https://www.adt.com/

    Happy now, ADT?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2017 @ 2:08pm

      Re: ADT is a piece of S.H.I.T.

      I suspect they'd be happier if their site wasn't full of scripting and injection security problems......and very badly implemented encryption.

      If they can't even get a WEBSITE right what chance do they have in keeping someones home secure, once they have your money?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2017 @ 2:29am

    Inherited ADT System

    Inactive in my new flat, I have one of ADT's systems left from a previous tenant. ADT has recently begun trying to recruit me to activate the system. Thanks to scriptjunkie and respondents to this article, I now know better than to go anywhere near these sneaky, unscrupulous, lying, vengeful jerks.

    Time to remove and dispose of the ADT hardware to save future residents from being victimized.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    chadp1 (profile), 5 Dec 2017 @ 4:56am

    civil rights

    People have just concerns about the 1 amendment. But where is the uproar when our liberties are so blatantly being taken from us concerning the 2 amendment. We will not have a free country without our right to defend ourselves.we loose one amendment and it all falls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Dec 2017 @ 11:51am

    So much for free speech!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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