It’s a common site on Fort Myers Beach: Homes gutted thanks to Hurricane Ian. One homeowner says his home security company wouldn’t stop charging him for its service, even though his home is uninhabitable.
He’s been trying to get a resolution for months with no luck. So, he called WINK News investigative reporter Céline McArthur for help.
When Jack Gregory enters his Fort Myers Beach home, there’s not much there. Hurricane Ian made sure of that.
“It was total destruction,” said Jack Gregory.
The massive storm surge and near-category five winds blew out windows and doors and turned almost everything he owned upside down.
“When I came inside, the very large refrigerator was on top of the island right in the kitchen,” said Jack.
Everything had to go.
With no power, nothing to protect, and no people living inside, Jack started calling to cancel services he could no longer use, like cable and home security.
“One of my first calls was to ADT, my security company,” said Jack.
He called the 1-800 numbers and emailed customer service repeatedly for more than a month.
“They kept pushing me back with standard form emails to call this particular 800 number, which was the number where every time you call, you’re on hold for an hour and a half, and then you get someone who can’t help you,” said Jack.
His response: “I hung up, and I emailed my salesman.”
Jack gave me those emails.
That salesman forwarded a message from his Southwest Florida district supervisor that said, in part, “Please advise him that his request has not fell on deaf ears. We have sent his request up to our leadership team, and they are addressing the issue.”
In another email to Jack, that supervisor appeared to explain away the disappointing response from the ADT call centers.
“Unfortunately, some agents may not have been advised of the utter devastation we had in our area.” He added, “corporate figured out the best solution for our customers in your situation.”
He didn’t elaborate.
Two days later, Jack got a $1,800 bill from ADT—the balance on his three-year contract.
“They weren’t providing me a service,” said Jack. “They still were going to bill me for three years of service, even though, you know, there’s no capability here for them to provide a service.”
Along with no power, the ADT equipment Jack paid for in full when the service was installed washed away in the storm.
Another two weeks passed. The same ADT supervisor emailed, “It appears that most customer insurance companies are covering the cost of the contractual agreement since the home was destroyed as a result of storm damage.”
“I talked to my flood and homeowners’ insurance coverage and my agent, who’s been in this market for 35 years,” said Jack. “None of them had ever heard of that. They said no, that’s not something we cover.”
Jack did not pay the 18-hundred-dollar invoice, so ADT sent it to collections.
“Which I found, you know, well, given what had happened previously, it wasn’t all that surprise, but it’s, it’s completely inappropriate,” said Jack.
I read the ADT contract. According to the cancellation guidelines, Section 20-5 says the contract can be canceled by ADT should service be impractical due to “modification or alteration of my premises after installation.”
I asked Fort Myers attorney Scot Goldberg—who is not connected to this —to read the contract and weigh in.
“That was put together by very expensive lawyers to make sure their butts are covered, and it gives them all kinds of outs. But it doesn’t give any of the people that lost their homes, that lost everything they have any outs,” said Goldberg.
However, Goldberg believes ADT’s actions violate the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and says this could end up being a strong class action suit if more people like Jack come forward.
“If you cannot get the service, if it’s impossible for you to pay for… to get the service you’re paying for, there is an out. There is a defense,” said Goldberg.
I called Jack’s ADT salesman to ask about the contract and company response.
Ben Ruport said, “I had followed the company procedures by my boss, who, then I pretty much had handed off Jack to my boss.”
I called the district supervisor Scott Carey. He didn’t pick up or return my call.
I reached out to ADT’s corporate communications. In an email, they thanked me “for alerting ADT to an issue involving one of our six-million-plus customers,” and said they’d look into it.
“6 million customers. Think about that,” said Goldberg. “So, if they have 6 million customers paying a monthly cost, and they have, let’s say,100,000 in Florida that have been impacted, how much would have been to, hey, here’s a reach out, here’s our hand, how can we help?”
“For me, the money wasn’t as big an issue as, what about people where $1,800 is a lot? I mean, a lot of my neighbors lost everything. I mean, 50 years of history, and everything they owned,” said Jack.
Three days after I reached out to ADT, Jack got this voicemail message and email:
“This is John Terranova calling in with ADT Security Services’ corporate office. It was brought to our attention by a local news organization that you’d had a concern with your ADT services… ADT has canceled, waived, zeroed out the balance for the account. There is nothing else due to ADT at this time. We have also made sure to recall your account from an outside collection agency to make sure that nothing is reported to any of the credit bureaus.”
I asked ADT how many people lost their service due to Hurricane Ian and how many people are still offline. No response.
I drove through Fort Myers Beach and found quite a few ADT signs—one in front a home also gutted after the storm.
If ADT responds, I will let you know.
If there’s an issue you’d like me to investigate, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.