Society

Widow Charged Fee For Deceased Husband's Phone Contract

| by Daniel Rivera
Constance YoungConstance Young

An Iowa woman was shocked when she got a bill to pay off her deceased husband's cellphone account.

Constance Young was still grieving two months after her husband, Terence, died, when she got a notice in the mail that said she was charged an early termination fee after she took him off the cellphone bill and returned his phone.

Her Verizon bill included a fee of $210 for breaking the contract. 

"They actually charged me $210 because he died," she told WAFB. "I don't understand how they can charge me $210 for him dying."

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"In a pure legal sense, just because someone dies, debts and assets survive death, generally speaking," Mark Judson of the SWLA Law Center said. "So, the estate of a deceased person owes their bills."

"From a public relations standpoint, it's perfectly horrible. If I were the owner of the company, I would forbid this sort of practice and I would simply cancel the bill, but I'm not the owner of the company. Sometimes legalities trump public relations."

Verizon representative Gretchen Whitaker said the company's policy is to waiver the early termination fee in such cases and told Young the company would credit her account.

Young hopes her story will help others in similar situations.

"They must have millions of people," Young said. "How many people has this happened to?" 

Version Wireless was sued by former subscribers in California in 2008 over its early termination fees but the company settled and agreed to pay $21 million, according to CNET.

Other lawsuits involving other telecommunication companies' termination fees have been heard in California. In 2008, a judge in Alameda County ruled Sprint Nextel's termination fees were illegal, but the ruling is limited to specific conditions and to the state.

Sources: WAFB, CNET (2) / Photo credit: Screenshot via WAFB