Isabel Albright of San Lorenzo, Calif., died last December at the age of 102. Born in 1916, she lived a long life and saw a lot of history being made, including the invention of the television.
After passing away, according to an ABC7 report, her family was shocked to receive a bill for an early termination fee from DirecTV.
"Everything was fine until we went to disconnect and that's when all the surprises happened,” said her son in law John Manrique, who also told the local news, “She was a fantastic lady, and she was able to live at home.”
"They told us... we're going to charge you $160 for an early termination fee,'' Manrique said. "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?"
Albright had DirecTV service for many years, so the penalty initially didn’t make any sense.
As it turned out, Albright’s daughter or another caregiver often spent the night, and the family had added an additional DirecTV box in a back room.
Little did they know that adding a new box meant adding a whole new two year service contract, ABC7 reports.
"Nobody told us that,” Manrique said. "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."
At the time, DirecTV allegedly said that the family was on the hook because the bill was in Albright’s daughter’s name. Much like many other families taking care of elderly relatives, Albright’s daughter had taken over her mother’s finances.
Manrique feels companies should be more understanding of these types of situations. "Because her mother couldn't do it anymore and a lot of people wind up doing that,” Manrique said. "We were trying to make sure that all the bills got paid. "
The Manriques said they called DirecTV asking for proof that someone signed a two year agreement.
"And 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,” Manrique said. "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.”
Yahoo Lifestyle contacted DirecTV and the company said, “We have apologized to the family and resolved this.”
Their representative also added, “Clearly this was a mistake because of the name on the account, in this type of situation, we cancel accounts and waive all early termination fees.”
Often caregivers find themselves in a situation where they must take over the finances of an elderly or infirm person. Investopedia offers suggestions about how to do this — such as putting their assets in a trust that a family member has access to — in order to avoid credit issues or bills after death.
Manrique told ABC7 that eventually the situation “turned out fantastic.”
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