America is getting older. It is projected that the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060. People aged 65 and older will become 24 percent of the population by then.
Along with that aging population, there will be an increase in companies selling products targeted toward aging individuals. We can already see that by the number of offers for products and services that our older family members get every day in the mail and see advertised on television.
One of the most popular of those products is the Personal Emergency Response System. This type of system allows older persons to hit a button during a medical emergency to alert emergency response if they are alone.
If you or a friend has recently had a death in the family, you are aware of the sad responsibility of organizing and closing out accounts and paying bills and making sure that everything is taken care of. If you are currently facing that responsibility, or know someone who is, there is a new Connecticut law that you should know about.
If your loved one purchased a Personal Emergency Response System, they probably signed a contract with the company that provided it, and they more than likely made monthly payments on it. Often those companies will keep billing the deceased person, and sometimes they harass the family members and ask them to continue paying for the system.
The company will tell you that you are obligated to continue paying; they will explain that the contract your loved one signed is still in effect.
You may think it sounds reasonable since your family member did sign a contract with the company. However, a bill that took effect July 1, 2018, states that a contract for a Personal Emergency Response System is terminated when the customer dies. Their families do not have to pay off the rest of the contract and are not liable for any other fees.
If one of these companies is still trying to get you to pay for their service, try contacting them and explaining the situation. If they keep trying to force you to pay, contact the Department of Consumer Protection (https://portal.ct.gov/DCP/Complaint-Center/Consumers—Complaint-Center).
It is important to read all contracts carefully, and if you don’t understand legal language or it is written in a confusing way, please ask for help. Contracts can be very difficult to understand. All contracts should be written in plain English, but many are not. If English is not your first language, seek out trusted people in the community to help you translate. Make sure you understand every contract completely before you or your family members sign.
If consumers do not understand a contract and sign anyway, they may be held liable even if they did not understand the information.
Scammers and dishonest businesses do not have your best interest in mind and may be looking to take advantage of a family member’s death. With the passing of this new bill, you no longer have to worry about paying off this contract or any liability fees.
Be safe, and pass this information on to families and friends!
As always, if you suspect that a company is trying to take advantage of you, please contact DCP.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.