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Attorneys General Announce Settlement with America Online Regarding Cancellation Issues
July 11, 2007
Forty-nine Attorneys General today announced a $3,000,000 settlement with AOL, one of the nation’s largest Internet service providers, requiring the company to make significant changes in honoring consumer cancellation requests and further ordering refunds for consumers.
The settlement, which was filed by 48 states* and the District of Columbia, resolves complaints in which consumers have alleged difficulty and confusion in attempting to cancel their AOL paid services. AOL formerly limited the methods available for consumers to cancel their accounts, such that the majority of consumers attempted to cancel by directly calling AOL. Customer service representatives received incentives for retaining or “saving” customers in lieu of cancellation, and consumers complained that as a result, cancellation was extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Today’s agreement puts strict limitations on this practice and requires recording and verification of these telephone calls. In addition, the agreement expands consumers’ options by allowing them to cancel through a simple online method via the website http://cancel.aol.com.
The agreement further requires AOL to make broad refunds to consumers who have complained of unauthorized charges for AOL service. In addition to resolving any outstanding complaints, the company will be adopting an ongoing process of refunding consumers for unauthorized charges, and will continue to cooperate with the states in these efforts.
Today’s settlement also addresses a number of other billing practices that created consumer confusion. Specifically, AOL will be revising its disclosures regarding reactivation of terminated accounts as well as its disclosures relating to accounts billed directly to a consumer’s monthly telephone bill. AOL will also significantly revise its practice of allowing consumers to create “spin off” accounts - which are additional paid accounts for AOL service stemming from one original membership. These accounts can now only be created over the phone in a recorded conversation with a customer service agent, who must make detailed disclosures of the applicable costs.
* The 48 states participating in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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