TRENTON, NJ – The state Assembly has voted 76-0 with three abstentions to prohibit telephone, cable and utility companies from charging dead customers early termination fees.
The measure specifically pertains to providers of: cable television and satellite service; cell phones; electric generation; heating oil, natural gas and propane; Internet access; and telecommunications including Voice over Internet Protocol.
“When a family is grieving over the loss of a loved one, the last thing they want to deal with is an early termination fee from a cable company or an Internet service provider,” said Assemblyman James Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), one of the sponsors. “Charging someone a fee because he or she died is a merciless business practice that must come to an end.”
The bill would require service providers to allow a deceased customer’s executor, upon submission of a written request, to opt out of the customer’s contract without paying an early termination fee. The executor also would be required to submit proof of the customer’s death within 180 days of making the request.
“Consumers are more than just a source of revenue for businesses. They’re human beings,” said co-sponsor Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Putting their surviving family members through the heartache of dealing with an early termination fee is simply wrong.”
“If someone dies, they’re not electing to end the contract early, so it’s really an improper application of the early termination fee,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Prohibiting this practice is about standing up for consumers in New Jersey.”
“It's appalling that we have to pass a law to protect consumers from extra fees tacked on solely because a customer dies,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “State law needs to protect families when they are most vulnerable by outlawing this practice in New Jersey.”
“Relatives who are grieving the loss of a loved one should not have to worry about dealing with fees they did not incur,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “These contracts were terminated by death. Trying to collect these fees from surviving relatives is not only unfair, but morally questionable.”
The measure moves on to the Senate for its consideration.