The family of a Thunder Bay man who committed suicide says continuing demands from TBaytel for a cancellation fee on a cellphone contract is making life difficult.

"It's like we take a few steps forward in dealing with this and then we get another bill," Tiffany Stubbings told CBC News.


Darryl Stubbings, 32, took his own life five months ago. (Courtesy of Stubbings family)

Stubbings brother Darryl Stubbings, 32, took his own life five months ago, and the Stubbings family paid off his cellphone charges from the months before he died.  

However, he was less than six months into a three-year contract with TBaytel. Under its compassion policy, TBaytel waived one year of the contract, but continues to demand the family pay $400 for the remainder. The company has sent a notice saying it will turn the matter over to a collections agency.

"It's horrible to expect, you know, to pay a cancellation fee on someone who's passed away,"  Stubbings said.  "It's almost like it's re-traumatizing you over and over again. I just can't believe that a company is putting a family through this."

Jeff Stubbings said the family has worked with a number of companies in dealing with his late brother's estate.

"You know, banks, insurance companies, credit card companies —  everything has gone smoothly with them," he said, except for TBaytel.  "Even after discussion with them, they still insisted on the family paying the cancellation fee." 

Barry Streib, director of corporate relations for TBaytel, said the company is doing its best to deal with the situation.

"First of all, TBaytel is very sorry for the family's loss and it is truly our intent to work with the estate to ensure that we're providing the best options for them and that we do our very best to resolve all the issues during their difficult time, " Streib told CBC News. 

"We believe we've been fair and will continue to work with them in the best interest of the estate. Our customer care [staff]

have had a number of conversations with representatives of the estate to try to resolve the account."

Cell phone at issue

While it has already waived one year of the contract, Streib said, the company would consider waiving the remainder if the family would return the cellphone.

"If they do return the equipment that was part of that contract ... we would definitely consider to waive the additional penalty fees associated with that," he said.

But Tiffany Stubbings said returning her late brother's cellphone is not an option for the family because of the memories it contains, including the last text messages they exchanged before he died.

When CBC asked whether TBaytel would make an exception to its policy and allow the Stubbings family to keep the cellphone for sentimental reasons, Streib said that was something the company would rather discuss with the family. 

Other companies' policies

CBC news called other cellphone companies about their policies when a customer dies. Bell Molbility and Rogers said the deceased person's family is asked to pay any outstanding cellphone usage balance, but neither poses a contract cancellation fee.

A spokesperson for Rogers said the company would not ask for the cellphone to be returned.

Bell said families would be asked to return the cellphone as a matter of routine, though the family could keep it for sentimental reasons if they asked.