5 On Your Side

Cell Phone Company Wrangles With Dead Man's Family Over Contract

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RALEIGH, N.C. — By now, most people realize if they cancel their cell phone contract early, they have to pay. A Raleigh man certainly had a legitimate reason to cancel his father's cell contract early when he died. But Alltel employees didn't seem to see it that way.

"I can't decide whether to get mad or cry," said Roy Vick. "I just don't know what to do."

Vick faxed Alltel a letter to cancel his dad's contract in February. He even included a copy of the death certificate. But during each of the next two months, Alltel drafted more than $35 from his father's bank account.

"So we called," said Vick. "We thought we got it taken care of. The next month, the same thing happens. I said, 'You're stealing money from a dead man's bank account.'"

Vick finally closed the account and again called Alltel. He said he was told the service was disconnected and he'd get a refund for the money wrongly drafted from the account. Instead, Vick got slapped with a $200 early disconnection penalty.

"(Charging) you $200 for disconnecting for a deceased person. I mean, that was heart wrenching," he said,

So Vick called Alltel again and got the $200 charge dropped, but was billed for the next month. He said after another call, he was told he had to pay and would not get that refund. Now, he's dealing with late fees and threats against his credit.

"Some contracts are till death," said Vick. "Obviously, cell phone service is a contract that carries beyond death."

When Five On Your Side called Alltel, a company spokesman apologized, agreed to clear the account balance and send Vick a refund of more than $100. Vick should get his check any day now. The spokesman wouldn't comment on how the charges even happened in the first place.


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