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Legal: Personal Emergency Response Services Cheat Sheet by

emergency     personal     response     pers     profits

Introd­uction PERS

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) services. Just because you monitor signals from a device in a subscr­iber’s home doesn’t mean you will succeed at PERS, as there are major differ­ences between the alarm and PERS indust­ries.

Case in point: Can you ride the wave of a 35-percent annualized attrition rate? That’s what custom­arily happens in the PERS market — not the 8-12% rate in the alarm industry.

1. Term of your subscriber agreement

What is the term of your subscriber agreement? There is no such thing as a 36-month automa­tically renewable contract in PERS; in fact, the term for most providers is month-­to-­month. The market limits the provider’s ability to get a long-term commit­ment, and most PERS customers cannot make a long-term commitment to the services for various reasons. Some get better; others move into nursing homes or retirement commun­ities; others don’t fare as well. The economic model contem­plates high churn and you need to be prepared to deal with the inevit­able.

2. Can the subscriber cancel the contract?

The laws in many states provide PERS subscr­ibers the right to cancel a PERS contract on short notice — sometimes in as few as three days. Unless you go to a subscr­iber’s home (most providers don’t) you will not need the FTC-ma­ndated three-day cancel­lation notice. In many cases, however, the subscr­iber’s right to cancel is limited to specific facts, such as moving into a nursing home. If you fail to comply with the laws in a state where your subscriber lives, your agreement may not enforc­eable at all, which will be a problem if you need to enforce the contract’s liability limita­tions. Make sure to learn and comply with the laws of the state in which your subscriber is located, even if your subscriber agreement uses the law of another state.

3. Who should be a party to the agreement?

Sometimes the person ordering the PERS services is the person using the PERS services; however, many times the person ordering is the daughter or son or has some other familial relation with the subscr­iber. So who should be a party to the contract? My contract contem­plates both as parties to the contract, and makes the parties “jointly and severally” liable. That means both mom and grandma are bound by the contract and must fulfill the obliga­tions of either party. Otherwise, your rights and protec­tions might be severely limited.
 

PERS

6. Who owns the equipment?

Most PERS providers permit subscr­ibers to use their equipment, retain title to the equipment and require subscr­ibers to return the equipment at the end of the contract. If you sell the equipment to the subscr­iber, that means you have to charge more than your compet­itors, many of which are Intern­et-­based, so price shopping is easy. Also, you could have fewer legal protec­tions for equipment you sell. Either way, deal with this issue wisely.

7. Shrinkwrap protec­tions

PERS providers struggle to get all signed contracts returned. One way to go is to set up a back-up “shrin­kwrap” program. The theory is to tell the subscriber at each stage of the transa­ction they are bound by terms and condit­ions. Although not perfect, a well-c­ons­tructed program could provide some protec­tions.

4. What contract protec­tions are needed for mPERS?

Most mobile PERS (mPERS) offerings provide locati­on-­based services, which use GPS or similar technology to find the subscriber if they are away from their home. This sort of technology has yet to be perfected. You also need to educate the subscriber about the limita­tions and set expect­ations accord­ingly. You also need the subscr­iber’s permission to use locati­on-­based techno­logy.

5. Who owns the data?

PERS providers collect data regarding each subscr­iber. The contract should set forth who owns the data regarding the subscr­iber’s location, their travel habits and their identi­fic­ation. As data gets increa­singly important, you may want to take ownership of the data for internal (or sales-­rel­ated) purposes.

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