Utility companies can no longer charge NYers cancellation fees if they die

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NEW YORK — If a New Yorker dies before their cellphone — or cable, or internet — contract expires, their families will no longer have to deal with “annoying” and “heartless” bills from badgering utility companies looking to charge a cancellation fee for the service that’s no longer needed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Tuesday and it will go into effect immediately. He called the practice “heartless and inappropriate” and said ending the fees “is the right thing to do.”

Landline, cellphone, television, internet, energy and water companies now will be prohibited from charging termination and early cancellation fees if customers die before the end of their service agreement.

If the companies break the law and charge the customer anyway, they can face a civil penalty of up to $1,000, according to the governor’s office.

Termination fees are used to ensure that customers use a service through the full contract period.

“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.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther supports the new law, drawing from her personal experience with her late mother, who was charged posthumously for utility services.

“This law was written in memory of my mother Therese Malone,” Gunther said. “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.”