A BEREAVED woman is “outraged” at a phone company’s demands for money.

Lifelong Seagulls fan Paul Lewis, who lived in Hollingbury Road in Brighton, died on Easter Monday aged 69.

His assets were frozen and the utility companies he used were informed of his death – but Hove-based Italk continued to ask for payment.

Paul’s niece Lisa Grufferty, from Brighton, who is head of strategic planning at Gatwick, said: “His phone bill was £21. No other company wanted to see a death certificate, but Italk demanded it.

“We kept getting demands to pay so I called them and they said not to worry and to pay once his assets were unfrozen. We were told to ignore any further demands.

“Then we received a letter saying that if we don’t pay within seven days they will start court proceedings.

“I called them and they said that we’ve been told the wrong information and the account isn’t frozen. The man even said that they tried calling the account holder.

“That’s when I really flew off the handle because how can he answer the phone if he’s dead? They demanded to see probate details for proof that we had no access to his assets.

“It is outrageous they can treat people with no respect or dignity.”

Italk managing director Dominic McDonald said there had been a mistake and the company was conducting an inquiry into how it happened.

He said when it received notification a customer had died, their account was put on hold to prevent any further automated letters or emails being sent out.

He said: “Sadly in this day and age we have to have a policy of asking for some form of proof, usually a death certificate, as instances of fraud in order to exit a minimum term contract are more frequent than one would hope.”

He said this policy was “in line with other telecommunication services contracts” and added: “It’s not the same with other utilities such as gas, electricity and water, as their contracts do not have minimum terms and if the services are not used, nothing is payable. We know this can be a very difficult time for friends and relatives and do our utmost to ensure they are treated fairly and sympathetically whilst ensuring the process is simple and easy to follow. “

He said the company “regrettably noted” that on this occasion its process appeared to have failed and for some reason the freeze was not placed on the account as it should have been, hence the family receiving the automated demands for payment.

He said: “We have contacted the family to offer our sincere apologies.

“The account has been closed with no further payments due and we have sent a gift to the family as a gesture of goodwill.”