Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Security theater? Claims to offer protection are mere puffing

Jhaveri v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 2012 WL 843315 (C.D.Cal.)
The Jhaveris contracted with ADT for home security services.  ADT promised to notify them of any alarm activation at their home, and if ADT could not reach them, ADT would immediately dispatch the police and ADT Security Services patrol.  ADT received an alarm notification in December 2010, and dispatched a patrol officer to investigate.  The patrol officer reported that there was no problem despite the presence of stacked furniture and broken windows, and only did a perimeter check even though the alarm was triggered inside the master bedroom closet. ADT didn’t contact the police and failed to notify the Jhaveris by cell phone of the alarm activation as protocol required.  The Jhaveris alleged that, as the result of this deficient response, they suffered millions of dollars in damages.
The court dismissed a bunch of counts; I’ll only discuss the false advertising claims under state law. The allegations of false advertising were based on ads claiming that ADT is the “# 1 security company in America,” and would help Plaintiffs “protect [their] home and family, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”; that ADT was “the electronic security industry's undisputed leader and standard bearer”; and that ADT's “well deserved reputation for excellence” was grounded upon its ability to provide “the very best in systems and services to all [their] valued customers.”  These statements were all puffery: “generalized statements of superiority upon which no reasonable consumer would rely.”  The 24-hour, 7-day claim was a non-actionable future promise.  (This last can’t really be true: most ad claims are promises of future performance, and those that aren’t explicitly so are implicitly, since very few people want to buy a product that was good but is now bad.)

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