San Lorenzo resident Isabel Albright, who was born before television became a mainstream form of media, had been a longtime customer of DirecTV, her family told ABC San Francisco station KGO.
Since Albright died in December, her family has been repairing her home to put it up for sale, sifting through her belongings and settling her accounts. They were shocked when they noticed an extra charge for $160 from the satellite broadcast service.
"Everything was fine until we went to disconnect and that's when all the surprises happened," Albright's son-in-law, John Manrique, told KGO.
Although Albright had been using DirecTV for many years, her family had recently added an extra cable box to place in a back room when they or other caregivers came to stay. Unbeknownst to them, this addition sparked a new two-year agreement, but when asked for proof that they'd agreed to a new contract, DirecTV couldn't come up with it, Manrique said.
"Every time you hiccup they start you on a new two-year agreement basically," he said. "It'll run the rest of your life if you accept some other feature or other. They got you.''
In addition, DirecTV informed the family that they would still have to pay the fee -- despite Albright's death -- because the account had been transferred to her daughter's name, Manrique said. However, the family only did so because Albright was no longer able to pay her own bills, he said.
Soon after KGO's "7 On Your Side" team contacted DirecTV, the family received a letter of apology from AT&T, the parent company of DirecTV, which agreed to waive the early termination fee.
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesman for AT&T said, "We have apologized to the family and resolved this."
The spokesman also noted that the mistake was made because of the name on the account, and that in this type of situation, accounts are canceled and all termination fees are waived.