Tom Spring of PC World did a year-end roundup of the hardest online services to cancel. Which company do you think took money from him after he canceled all three of his accounts before the trials were over, then denied culpability based on “service reps errors”?
Hand it to AOL for pure shamelessness. Not even four huge, headline-making lawsuits (they settled with New York in 2005 for $1.25 million, with Ohio in 2004 for $25 million, with Illinois in January 2006 for $25 million, and with Florida in December 2006 for $1.5 million) can stop them from snatching hard-earned money right out of your hand.
AOL makes you give them your credit card number when you sign up for their service so they can bill you for it at least one month in advance. In order to get a refund, you have to ask for one when you cancel.
Do they disclose in their contract that you have to ask them for a refund? No. It’s not mentioned in the contract. As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a family of lawyers, and this is one case I’d love to hang them for in any courtroom, anywhere, anytime. How can they get away with this — and why does anyone let them?
Tom Spring signed up for three trials (one in Massachusetts, one in New York, and one in Colorado) and was surprised by the results when he called AOL to cancel each one of them:
“…even though I canceled my 90-day trial after only 16 days, I was hit with a charge of $25.90, the monthly AOL fee, on my credit card. In both of those [other] cases, my credit card was [also] charged the monthly fee.
Later, when I called back and questioned why I had been billed, another representative told me that I had to ask for a refund, or else I wouldn’t receive one–odd, given that the first rep had said that I wouldn’t be billed.
Just to clarify, it says nowhere in the contract that you have to ask for a refund when you call to cancel, only that you’ll get a refund if you cancel before the 90 day trial period ends.
If Tom Spring, an intelligent man who writes for PC World, a magazine on the cutting edge of tech, was ripped off by AOL, anyone is vulnerable to their thievery. It’s not that AOL’s subscribers are stupid or easily tricked. AOL is fooling everyone with a contract that makes it sound like you automatically get your money back if you cancel before the trial period ends.
How are members supposed to know they have to ask AOL for a refund? How can members who cancel by mail, fax, or online get their money back? This is the most grossly deceptive and unfair situation I’ve ever seen them tangled up in, so if anyone wants to start a new lawsuit against them for this fraudulent practice, I’ll be right there with them. I’ll sign up for a paid version of AOL in a heartbeat and play dumb when I cancel just to see if they’ll pull this crap on me, too.