Choose words in contract carefully.  Do you Insure or Ensure /

Wording on yard signs and decals

March 27,  2013 


    Contract terminology makes all the difference.  It what causes the judge to scrutinize the contract and often surprise one or both sides of a case with what the judge thinks the contract means.  A recent inquiry regarding a word used in the Residential All in One and the Commercial All in One [and other Standard Form Contracts] questioned the use of the word "insure" when used in the Inspection provision.  That provision imposes on the alarm company making the inspection this duty:  Alarm Co. "will make an annual inspection of the security system. Inspection service includes testing of all components to insure proper working order."

    The question was, should the word be "insure" or "ensure"?  What do you think?

    Here's the definition of Insure:  

1: to provide or obtain insurance on or for 

2: to make certain especially by taking necessary measures and precautions.  So the second meaning may apply, though inspections don't "make certain".

    Here's the definition of Ensure:  to make sure, certain, or safe;  guarantee.   I'm pretty certain you don't intend to "make certain or guarantee" anything in your inspection.

But the dictionary had further instruction that is helpful.  Here's what I found:


Synonym Discussion of ENSURE

ensure, insure, assure, secure mean to make a thing or person sure.   Ensure, insure, and assure are interchangeable in many contexts where they indicate the making certain or inevitable of an outcome, but ensure may imply a virtual guarantee [the government has ensured the safety of the refugees], while insure sometimes stresses the taking of necessary measures beforehand  [careful planning should insure the success of the party], and assure distinctively implies the removal of doubt and suspense from a person's mind [I assure you that no harm will be done].  Secure implies action taken to guard against attack or loss  [sent reinforcements to secure their position].


The Standard Forms will continue to use the term "insure" since "ensure" implies virtual gurantee, "assure" implies removal of doubt, and "insure" stresses taking necessary measures.  I suppose "secure" might work as well.  But to "insure" the best best protection, make sure you use a "Completion Certificate" after the inspection [and every installation and service call], which is the subscriber's acknowledgement that the system was working and operational when you left.  


Question re wording on yard signs and decals



Is it possible for an alarm company to increase its liability by having the wrong wording on its window decals?  The decals always have the company name and phone number but it’s the third part that I question.  I’ve seen sayings like “24 hour protection by”, “Electronic protection by”, “Alarm system monitored by”  and “ Secured by” to name a few.  Is there any saying that is better than the rest or, more to the point, any saying we should avoid?


Tony Barlow, Pres./CEO

North Coast Signal Inc.




Would I sound too much like a lawyer if I responded that "anything is possible".   I am sure you want to know if it's more probable or likely.  [trust me, I am far from a linguist].

You ask a good question.  Can wording on your yard signs and decals increase your exposure to your subscriber and others?  I think the answer is yes.  How?  By creating expectations that aren't realistic or even intended by you.  "Absolute Protection"; "Total Protection"; "Guaranteed Protection"; "24 hour Protection"; "Round the Clock Protection".  

I bet every one of these are in use and you can probably send in a lot more that convey an even more sense of security.  Maybe I should have said, "false sense".  That's the problem of course because we know that no alarm company guarantees no loss, and no alarm company intends its system prevent loss, merely detect and at most be used as a preventative measure without assurance of no loss.  Your contract better make that very clear.  

What if the terms used above are the name of the company.  Well, that's certainly  better than if the words are used as a description of the services.  I don't think you need to run out and change your name because it uses words that would cross the line if used to describe the services.  The law still recognizes the difference between puffery and representations and warranties.  

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