by Dr. Eowyn
How heartless and grubbing can a business be.
Isabel Albright was born on September 11, 1916 in Oakland, California. She lived through 18 presidents and two world wars, and left behind a huge family.
When she died last December at the remarkable age of 102, her family was shocked when satellite television provider DirecTV charged her an “early termination” fee of $160.
KGO ABC7 reports, Oct. 1, 2019, that Albright’s family was repairing her house in San Leandro for sale, sifting through her belongings in a life that spanned an entire century. Then they discovered that DirecTV actually billed the dead woman an “early termination fee”.
Albright’s son in law, John Manrique of Hayward, said: “Everything was fine until we went to disconnect [her DirectTV] and that’s when all the surprises happened. They told us… we’re going to charge you $160 for an early termination fee. She’s gone. Nobody’s living (here). We’re selling the house. You’re going to tell us we have to keep the service at a house that’s not ours?”
Toward the end of Albright’s life, a caregiver moved in, and her daughter stayed often. So the family added a DirecTV box in a back room for caregivers.
Little did they know that adding the service started a whole new two-year agreement with DirecTV.
Manrique said: “Nobody told us that. 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, two year contract.”
DirecTV said the family had to pay — even though Albright had died — because the bill was in the name of her daughter, Linda Manrique. John says his wife was paying all of her mother’s bills “because her mother couldn’t do it anymore…. We were trying to make sure that all the bills got paid. ”
The Manriques kept calling DirecTV asking for proof they’d signed a two year agreement. John Manrique said: “They had no proof other than you started this new service on this date…and that starts a new contract whether you signed it or not. Every time you hiccup they start you on a new two-year agreement basically. It’ll run the rest of your life if you accept some other feature or other. They got you.”
Manrique contacted ABC7 On Your Side. The TV station reached out to DirecTV and soon after, Manrique received a letter of apology from DirecTV’s parent company, AT&T. It agreed to waive the early termination fee and said, “We have apologized to the family and resolved this.”
Manrique said, “This never would have resolved if I hadn’t contacted 7 On Your Side. It turned out to be fantastic, thanks to you.”
According to Newsweek, forcing families to pay cancellation fees after a death has been a point of contention, but some state governments are working to change that.
In 2018, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that barred any cable or telecommunications companies from charging termination penalties after the primary customer on the account passed away. New York now imposes a $1000 fine on any company found charging fees after a customer dies.