Congress Expands Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to Allow Family Members to Terminate Internet, Phone, and Cable Contracts

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On January 5, 2021, the Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act became law, allowing families of U.S. servicemembers and members of the reserve components who die or are seriously injured while in military service to terminate their internet, phone, and cable contracts without incurring a financial penalty.1 The Act amended Section 3956(a) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which allows servicemembers to terminate certain telecommunications contracts at any time after the date they receive military orders to relocate for at least 90 days to a location that does not support the contract.2

Under the new law, spouses and dependents of a member of the uniformed services who dies or "incurs a catastrophic injury or illness," as well as members of the reserve components performing certain duties,3 qualify as additional individuals covered under this provision and are therefore allowed to terminate such contracts.

The SCRA, enacted in 2003 and amended several times since then, is designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service by providing protections for military members as they enter active duty.4 Under the SCRA, telecommunications service providers may not impose early termination charges on servicemembers who terminate a contract for commercial mobile service, telephone exchange service, internet access service, or multichannel video programming service entered into by the servicemember before receiving qualifying military orders.5

Providers are also proscribed from imposing a charge for reinstating service on members who re-subscribe during the 90-day period beginning on the last day of their relocation (other than the customary installation and equipment charges).6 The Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act expands these protections to spouses and dependents of servicemembers under this provision of the SCRA.

FOOTNOTES

1 116 P.L. 285, 2021 Enacted H.R. 4356, 116 Enacted H.R. 4356, 134 Stat. 4878, 116 P.L. 285, 2021 Enacted H.R. 4356, 116 Enacted H.R. 4356, 134 Stat. 4878 ("Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act").
2 See 50 U.S.C. § 3956(a)
3 Covered members of the reserve components include those "performing military service or performing full-time National Guard duty, active Guard and Reserve duty, or inactive-duty training."
4 See 50 U.S.C. §§ 3901, et seq.
5 50 U.S.C.A. § 3956(b), (e)(1).
6 50 U.S.C.A. § 3956(e)(2).

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