The family of a California woman who died at age 102 got an unexpected and unwelcome surprise after her passing -- a $160 early termination fee from DirecTV.
The case stirred controversy in California, prompting the family of Isabel Albright to reach out to local news station ABC 7 about the case. Family members said that the San Lorenzo woman, one of the oldest living people in the United States at the time of her passing, died last December and led the family to repairing her home and putting it up for sale. As they were getting those affairs in order, they ran into a problem with her satellite television provider.
"Everything was fine until we went to disconnect and that's when all the surprises happened,'' said John Manrique, Isabel's son-in-law.
The family was upset at DirecTV for charging the $160 fee for what was then an empty home being prepared to be sold. They also said that Albright had been a DirecTV customer for years, so they could not understand how she had an early termination penalty.
But the family had recently changed their service plan, adding a DirecTV box in a backroom for caregivers who stayed with Isabel in her final weeks and putting the account in another family member's name. The company said that this automatically locked them into a new service plan, even though family members said they were never informed and never actually signed a new contract.
"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."
This is not the first story of an after-death financial penalty to gain viral interest. Back in 2016, husband and wife Tom and Marilyn Ast had booked an $11,000 cruise through Viking River Cruises, but the woman passed away before the trip. The couple, who had been married for 45 years, was looking forward to the trip. On her deathbed Marilyn told her husband to take the cruise and enjoy it.
But when Tom called Viking River Cruises to let them know that Marilyn had passed away, he was charged an $853 "rebooking" fee to have her name taken off the itinerary.
Like the California family, Ast decided to take his grievance to local media, and after a report from Fox 31, the company decided to refund him the fee.
In California, the family of Isabel Albright finally got some help after reaching out to ABC 7's sister station in San Francisco, which contacted DirecTV for comment. After that, the family received a letter from DirecTV's parent company, AT&T, apologizing and saying that the early termination fee would be waived.