New law prevents phone companies, utilities from charging deceased with early cancellation fees



Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Tuesday that prevents phone companies and utility providers from charging a contract termination or early cancellation fees in the event of a customer’s death.

“This was a heartless and inappropriate policy that is mostly borne by grieving New Yorkers grappling with the loss of a loved one,” Cuomo said. “Ending these fees is the right thing to do and will spare those in mourning from this annoying burden.”

Many utilities and phone companies use early termination fees to ensure that a customer continues to use a service through the full contract period. But under this new law (A.8630-a /S.6485-a), landline, cell phone, television, internet, energy and water service providers are prohibited from charging contract termination or early cancellation fees if a customer dies before the end of an agreement.

“This law was written in memory of my mother Therese Malone,” said Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, the sponsor of the Assembly bill. “After she passed away, a utility company tried to charge her account an early termination fee. I wondered, if this was happening to my family, how many others have been taken advantage of.

“My mother was a generous, caring woman who was guided by her faith. She would be pleased that, even after her passing, she was able to help others.”

A civil penalty of up to $1,000 will be placed on providers that violate this law. The new law takes effect immediately.

“It is wrong for companies to charge early termination, or cancellation fees to deceased individuals, and I am proud to have sponsored the legislation that will prohibit this practice,” said Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, the Senate sponsor of the bill.