Today Joe Manna responded to a comment of mine that I left on his blog a few weeks ago about a lawsuit AOL settled over advertisements in the footers of AOL email (some topics are much too “Yawn, whatever” for me to cover, sorry).
In case you missed it, last month AOL was court-ordered to pay damages to people who could not disable advertisements on their outbound email. The advertisements encouraged people to sign up for AOL. The court ordered AOL to pay damages in the form of a “small donation” to “charity”.
I hinted to Joe that both the lawsuit and settlement was ridiculous. How about a more serious issue that AOL should be sued for (again): all the customers who are routinely overcharged each month, and who get lied to by call reps who say their accounts are canceled, when in fact they are not? Where is the money for them?
Joe’s response almost exactly mirrors the answer I received on Alley Insider when I was sparring with anonymous AOLers over the same issue a month ago. Except Joe’s comment and mine somehow got lost in the Disqus system that Joe adapted for his blog, making them impossible to read and/or reply to, so I’ll reply the old-fashioned way: on my blog.
Joe Manna wrote:
The best part of it [is], the donation to charity is a great way to reduce their [AOL’s] tax footprint and they can deduct all of it, even if court-ordered.
Well, go AOL! Reduce that tax footprint, Tim.
With regard to people being charged $20 [by AOL] month after month for over a year is an issue I have. Not with the company but the people being charged. I’m not trying to defend ‘the man’, but there’s a certain amount of personal responsibility people have in monitoring their finances ensuring they are billed correctly by their creditors.
How could she [unidentified subject] not know after at least a couple months something’s wrong?
I’m unsure which “she” he was referring to since our comments are lost in Discus space, but either way, I don’t disagree with Joe. You have a responsibility as a consumer to check your bills each month for overcharges and accounts that haven’t been canceled. No argument there.
Sometimes shit happens. Perhaps you get hospitalized the day after you cancel AOL only to learn six months later, after you finally get out of the hospital, that AOL is still billing you for that account.
Or perhaps you’re one of those meek, trusting souls who simply “believe” AOL will cancel your account in a timely manner, so you don’t check your credit or debit card statement the following month, or the month after, or the month after that, to make sure the account is in fact, canceled.
While I’m not defending anyone who trusts a huge monolithic company to make the right financial decisions for them, I’d like to point out that that is a different situation than one in which someone simply doesn’t check their credit card statements at all, for whatever reason.
I’d also like to point out that a customer noticing they’ve been robbed is not essential to successfully robbing that customer.
AOL: A classic pickpocket.
If you get your pocket picked but you don’t notice your wallet’s missing for two months, that may make you incredibly forgetful, but it doesn’t take away the fact that there was a robber (the person who picked your pocket) and a victim (you).
If you went two months without noticing your missing wallet, does that mean you shouldn’t file a police report now since, after all, you were too forgetful to file one sooner – does that two-month forgetful lapse somehow mean that getting your pocket picked was your own fault?
With all due respect: That argument isn’t even logical.
Saying that a time lapse in checking one’s credit or debit card statement for charges that shouldn’t come through from AOL makes the consumer responsible for any such charges incurred is the biggest bunch of psychological trash since Google announced their motto was “Don’t be evil”, yet it is perpetuated throughout the ranks of the few lost souls still working at AOL.
It is at best a specious argument, and at worst lowly mind games played by AOL to cover their financial ass after picking people’s pockets to ensure they can continue properly padding their shrinking bottom line.
To bolster his argument, Joe continues:
That said, the credit policies at AOL only afford three months cash credit back to people which is disappointing for people have held service for a year. There’s an amount of personal responsibility that we all have in holding companies accountable. Not a year later unless circumstances like death or whatnot took place.
Sorry, but even if “death or whatnot took place”, the dead infamously can’t cancel AOL, either (the tape is from ImpiousDigest.com, which backlinked to this blog after I mentioned it was hard to find cancel pages on AOL).
As to Joe’s claim that you can only get a three month refund from AOL no matter how many months or years you were overcharged, check out this completely undead customer who went three years without checking for charges from AOL for an account he canceled three years ago.
Despite the lengthy (in fact, ridiculous) time lapse, he got his money back from AOL, and if you’re being overcharged by AOL, even if you haven’t checked your credit and debit statements as religiously as you should have, the answer is, No matter what, yes, you can – and should – get your money back from AOL, too.