SAN LORENZO, Calif. — Isabel Albright of San Lorenzo was among the oldest people in America – living through two world wars, 18 presidents and several moon landings.
She was born before television came into being.
Yet, ironically, she didn’t outlive her satellite TV contract. And that was a problem.
“Everything was fine until we went to disconnect and that’s when all the surprises happened,” said her son-in-law, John Manrique of Hayward, California.
Albright died last December at the remarkable age of 102. The family has been repairing the house for sale, sifting through boxes and closing up a life that spanned a whole century.
Which was why the last bill from DirecTV seemed so galling: Although she lived more than 100 years, Albright still received an “early termination fee” from DirecTV.
Or at least the family did – and they were stunned.
“They told us… we’re going to charge you $160 for an early termination fee,” Manrique scoffed. “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 why the penalty?
Turns out, at the end of her life, a caregiver moved in, and her daughter stayed often. So the family added a DirecTV box in a back room for caregivers.
Little did they know that adding the service started a whole new two-year agreement with DirecTV.
“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.”
DirecTV said the family had to pay — even though Albright had died — because the bill was in the name of her daughter, Linda. But John says his wife was paying all of her mother’s bills.
“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 kept calling DirecTV asking for proof they’d 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.”
Manrique contacted ABC7’s sister station in San Francisco, who reached out to DirecTV. Soon after, Manrique received a letter of apology from DirecTV’s parent company, AT&T. It agreed to waive the early termination fee after all, stating simply, “We have apologized to the family and resolved this.”
“This never would have resolved if I hadn’t contacted 7 On Your Side,” Manrique said. “It turned out to be fantastic, thanks to you.”