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Chaparro & Chiaravalloti Bill to Help Domestic Violence Victims Opt-Out of Bundled or Multi-Year Phone and Cable Contracts Clears Full Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Chaparro and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to allow domestic violence victims to cancel television and telephone service contracts without paying early termination fees was unanimously approved by the full Assembly on Monday.

“Victims of domestic violence that are under a telecom contract with their abuser should be able to break their contract without penalty,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “These multi-bundle plans are iron-clad agreements by design but to anyone in a situation that threatens their security these agreements feel more like traps with monetary penalties.”

The bill (A-4280) stipulates that a cable television company, local exchange telephone company, or provider of direct broadcast satellite service providing television and telecommunications service must allow a residential customer who is a victim of domestic violence, and is under a bundle contract or multi-year contract, to cancel the contract without paying an early termination fee or other similar charges.

“This legislation aims to make it easier for domestic violence victims to pick up and move when it is necessary, especially when their safety depends on it,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “There must be an opt-out clause for special circumstances such as the necessary and immediate relocation of a domestic violence victim.”

The bill requires a customer who is a victim of domestic violence to request the contract cancellation in writing and submit, within one year of the request, documentation proving that the customer is a victim of domestic violence, including a restraining order issued in the state or a copy of a permanent domestic violence restraining order from another jurisdiction issued pursuant to the jurisdiction’s laws concerning domestic violence.

Under the bill, a request for opting-out of the contract without charge is to be made in good faith. These service providers are to waive the otherwise applicable charges for the residential customer requesting to opt-out of the contract as of the date the service provider receives the request.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.