DirecTV sends bill for early termination fee after 102-year-old California woman’s death

AT&T-owned DirecTV sent the family of a 102-year-old woman who had died a bill for early termination of the service. Eventually, the company waived the fee and apologized.

Death and taxes are two certainties in life, the saying goes. Perhaps it should be amended to include your pay TV bill.

Isabel Albright of San Lorenzo, Calif., Who passed away in December 2018 at the age of 102, had been a longtime customer of satellite TV service DirecTV. Months after her death, her daughter, who had had put the DirecTV service in her name as she had been handling her mother’s bills, was surprised to get one from DirecTV for an early termination of the pay TV service.

The daughter and in-home caregivers had been staying in her mother’s home to care for her in the months prior to her death and they had added an additional DirecTV box into another room. The DirecTV bill noted that the addition of the new box also initiated a new two-year service contract.

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Even though no one was now living in the home, the company basically told the family, “you’re still responsible for the bill so we are going to charge you $160 for an early termination fee,” son-in-law John Manrique told San Francisco ABC TV station KGO recently.

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Manrique, who had been fixing up the home for the family to sell, said the family contacted DirecTV asking for proof that they had agreed to a new two-year deal, but never got anywhere, they told the TV station.

“Nobody told us that,” Manrique told KGO-TV. “And in fact we made it clear when we added the TV in the extra room that it was a temporary thing. … We’re saying my mother-in-law’s on hospice, we’re not gonna pay, you know, (a) two-year contract.”.

After KGO called the company about the situation, the family got a letter from DirecTV’s parent company AT&T, which acquired the pay TV service in 2014., Saying the company was waiving the fee.

“We have apologized to the family and resolved this,” the company told the TV station.

Some lawmakers have taken action to help survivors not be responsible for subscriptions to services such as pay TV and broadband. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month also signed a bill preventing auto dealers from charging early termination fees on car leases if the primary customer dies before the contract ends.

“Losing a loved one is hard enough – facing an early termination fee on a motor vehicle lease that belonged to a departed loved one is just salt in the wound,” Cuomo said in a statement at the time.

“Television, internet and phone providers are already banned from issuing these fees, and with this new law we’re doing the same for motor vehicle leases to ensure grieving relatives will be protected from this additional stress,” he said.

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.