Ask the Attorney: I have a customer who is just awful. She is belligerent and hateful to my employees and me. I would like to fire her as a customer. Can I do that?
This is a terrible situation to be in, and one that I hope does not happen often. I know your goal is to gain customers, and that you strive to make even the grumpiest of people happy. The customer is always right, as the saying goes. Despite your best efforts, unfortunately, there are times when a customer crosses the line. When a customer is verbally or physically abusive or is disturbing to your business due to his or her constant complaints—and you just cannot make the customer happy, no matter what—it is time to part ways. This is easy if your contract has a clause concerning situations such as this:
Alarm Company has the right to cancel this Agreement if, at Alarm Company’s sole discretion, it believes Customer is verbally or physically abusive to Alarm Company’s employees, subcontractors, or representatives.
If you don’t have a similar clause in your agreement, it can be trickier. After all, if you have a contract with this customer, you have obligations under the contract too.
As a practical matter, however, it likely won’t be worth your customer’s time, effort or money to sue you on your contract especially if they can find another provider for a similar price. You can help ensure the customer doesn’t sue you by giving the customer ample time to find another provider (60 days should be sufficient), and provide no cost monitoring during that time. In the right circumstances, you may also be wise to refund the customer for equipment they paid for but can no longer use. In the end, just remember that should you have to go to court, you want to be able to show that you treated the customer more than fairly—so that you look good, and so that the customer has no claim for damages. Oh, and along those lines, if you’ve got a written record of your customer’s bad actions (in emails, for example) hang on to it, in case you need to show the court why you backed out of the contract.