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Life Alert agrees to refunds, penalties in settlement over consumers' inability to cancel contract

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Feb.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Feb. 28, 2020 in Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

More than 5,500 New Yorkers will be able to immediately cancel their contract with Life Alert, the California-based emergency response system company, through a settlement with New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The deal, announced Tuesday, settles an investigation by James' office into Life Alert’s failure to include mandatory cancellation provisions in the company's service contracts.

Life Alert will provide refunds to more than 700 New York customers who unsuccessfully tried to exercise cancellation rights in their contract. The company will also pay the state $750,000 in penalties, costs and fees.

"When the elderly and disabled fall and hurt themselves, they trust Life Alert to come to the rescue, but Life Alert violated that trust when they refused to honor consumers’ rights," James said. "Today’s agreement holds Life Alert accountable and ensures they not only protect seniors’ physical well-being, but their rights as consumers going forward as well."

Life Alert, best known for its slogan, "Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up," allows consumers to notify a response center during an emergency, typically through activating a pendant or bracelet.

Efforts to reach Life Alert were not successful.

Customers signing up for Life Alert are required to sign a 36-month monitoring service agreement and to pay a monthly fee, plus upfront programming and installation fees, which in total range from $2,000-$3,400.

State law requires businesses to verbally notify customers that they have seven days after signing the agreement to cancel it.

But the investigation found from 2014 through early-2020, Life Alert did not make these disclosures to more than 16,000 New York consumers and when customers attempted to cancel their service the company refused.

The agreement requires Life Alert to notify New York customers that are in the first 36-months of their contracts of their right to cancel their contracts immediately. Consumers who tried to cancel their contracts will be offered refunds — up to 24-months of payments or the number of payments actually made, whichever is less.

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