Answer: My condolences on your loss. T-Mobile should have canceled Adam’s phone service as soon as you sent it evidence of his death. It should have made the process as easy as possible — not a frustrating series of emails and phone calls that ended with his bill growing more than fivefold.
As far as I can tell, T-Mobile doesn’t directly address the issue of a customer’s death directly on its website. But it offers a few clues. In a section that deals with early termination fees — those are the annoying surcharges imposed when you exit your contract before its term is finished — it describes the proof T-Mobile requires to confirm a customer’s death. The evidence includes a mobile number, account number, name of the responsible billing party and a death certificate or a legal document confirming the customer’s death.
The problem isn’t just how these documents are provided to T-Mobile, but how soon. Requiring that you send them through the mail after a lengthy process can take weeks, even months. In a conversation with a T-Mobile representative, you were told that this was the company’s policy, and that T-Mobile wanted to build up charges and then write them off on their taxes, a practice that would make perfect sense from the perspective of a business.
I’m not sure T-Mobile is trying to profit from its customers’ demise. That would seem cold-hearted, and besides, the section dealing with death promises a reply to the request within a week.
But I do believe the system it uses to verify someone’s passing is needlessly complex. At the very least, every call center employee should be briefed on how to handle a call from someone’s next of kin (if not, then at least give them a darned script to read). Make it as easy as possible to settle a person’s affairs.
Maybe the company says it best on its site: “The death of a loved one is hard enough. T-Mobile doesn’t want to make it any more difficult.”
I contacted T-Mobile on your behalf. A representative sent me a prepared statement promising “T-Mobile is committed to delivering the best experience in wireless to our customers and takes great pride in delivering excellent customer service.” The company declined to comment on your case, citing privacy considerations.
But a representative called you and in a tone of voice you say was “very patronizing” told you the company’s policy was for the protection of its own customers. T-Mobile issued a credit to cover the amount showed as owing on the account and closed it.