Cell phone bills often seem to take on a life of their own. Every month they morph to contain figures unrecognizable from the month before, with new, befuddling charges, all documented on a labyrinth of paper.
Imagine the indecipherable confusion, then, of the cellphone bills sent to a deceased customer two months after his death.
Three days after Darrel Dalziel died in late February, his son, Lew Channel, called T-Mobile to cancel his father's cellphone, KCBS reports.
But the company kept sending bills, and after the family sent in Dalziel's death certificate, T-Mobile then pursued payments from his estate. “That’s profits over people,” Eric Ratinoff, a California consumer attorney, told KCBS. “That should make every one of your viewers sick.”
After three months of haggling, T-Mobile eventually waived all fees and halted its collection efforts. And though the company has labeled Dalziel's case an "isolated incident," at least one other customer has had a similar experience with the cellphone service provider.
In that case, T-Mobile allegedly billed a dead man for several months, adding on late fees until the invoice was $98 per month for a bill that normally cost only $20.
In the company's defense, T-Mobile's official policy regarding deaths is far more compassionate than these cases would indicate:
The death of a loved one is hard enough. T-Mobile doesn’t want to make it any more difficult. If you need to cancel a line of service on behalf of a deceased person, T-Mobile will waive the [Early Termination Fee]. Simply contact Customer Care. You will be asked to provide the following: Mobile number, Account number, Billing responsible party name, Death certificate, or attorney/legal estate documents if death certificate is not yet available.
Also on HuffPost:
$44 Million Hospital Visit
Unemployed doorman Alexis Rodriguez <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/bronx-lebanon-hospital-center_n_1208921.html" target="_hplink">received a bill for $44.8 million from Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center</a>. Thankfully, the outrageous bill was the result of a billing company error, in which they mistakenly put the invoice number in the space where the invoice amount should go.
$201,000 Cell Phone Bill
Celina Aarons of South Florida received a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/celina-aarons-201000-cell-phone-bill_n_1017723.html" target="_hplink">43-page cell phone bill </a>adding up to $201,000. The bill was no mistake. Aarons, who also has her two deaf-mute brothers on her plan, forgot to change their data to international after the pair spent two weeks in Canada, accruing up to $2,000 in data charges.
Paying For Crime
After Loretta Robinson's son was killed by a drunk driver, she was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/24/loretta-robinson-mother-billed-cleanup-son-killed-by-undocumented-drunk-driver_n_1622301.html" target="_hplink">billed for various charges, including a $50 charge to clean up her son's blood</a> from the road along with charges to tow and store the suspect's vehicle after the incident.
Auto Bill-Pay Nightmare
Alina Simone thought she didn't have to worry about her cell phone bill as she had set up auto bill-pay. However, when she finally checked her statement, she discovered that she was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/sprint-cell-bill-autopay_n_1310312.html" target="_hplink">being charged per text message</a>, racking up more than $700 in fees despite the fact that her plan entitled her to 1,000 free texts per month.
$37,000 In Sweets
A Middletown, Ohio teen got caught <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/teen-charged-with-billing_n_165531.html" target="_hplink">charging over $37,000 worth of candy</a> to his high school's purchasing number. After the company, The Goodies Factory, became suspicious, authorities arrested the 18-year-old at his home when he went to receive the empty package.
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/lisa-lindsay-breast-cancer-survivor-debtors-jail_n_1446391.html" target="_hplink">arrested after she refused to pay a $280 medical bill</a>, which was sent to her by accident.
Billed After Body Violation
A New Mexico woman was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/woman-sent-1000-bill-for-_n_952135.html" target="_hplink">billed for a mandatory body cavity search</a> after being accused of concealing heroin. The search turned up nothing and the woman was not arrested or charged, however she received a bill for $1,122 from the hospital that performed the search.
$16 Million Cable Bill
An Ohio man was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/time-warner-cable-bill_n_844506.html" target="_hplink">charged over $16,000,000 by Time Warner Cable</a> after he accrued some odd charges for watching the March Madness tournament. The bill was eventually blamed on human error.