"You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased." That's the very real message a British man received three weeks after informing PayPal of his wife's May 31 death from cancer at age 37. "What empathy-lacking machine sent this?" Howard Durdle, 40, first wrote on Facebook, sharing the letter threatening legal action over Lindsay Durdle's $4,200 debt, which her widower says her estate couldn't cover, per Inc. "As soon as our teams became aware of this mistake, we contacted Mr. Durdle directly to offer our support, cleared the outstanding debt and closed down his wife's account," PayPal tells the New York Times, adding it has "made changes to ensure that an insensitive error of this nature never happens again."
Durdle, too, says his goal is to prevent future instances like this—"it can be hugely damaging for people who are trying to recover"—and he thinks speaking out is the best way to accomplish that. "While PayPal's mistake is getting lots of press, the truth is companies send out similar letters all the time," Inc. notes. Speaking to the Times, the president of consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen blames companies' increasing reliance on software and algorithms to communicate with customers. Per the BBC, Durdle was told a software glitch, bad letter template, or human error was likely to blame in his case, but that the exact cause would remain an internal secret. "I just hope more orgs can apply empathy and common sense to avoid hurting the recently bereaved," he wrote in a Tuesday tweet, per CBS News.