AOL Settles With 44 States; Agrees to Change Practices
Posted May 27, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — America Online has settled a lawsuit filed against the company by 44 states, including North Carolina. The suit grew out of consumer complaints over a 2 year period. As WRAL OnLine reporter Tom Lawrence reports, AOL has agreed to several conditions to protect you.
AOL has been under the gun for a number of practices criticized by consumers. Today's settlement means AOL will pay the 44 states $2.6 million and agrees to several conditions. According to N.C. Attorney General Mike Easley, key to the agreement is an industry standard in ways of doing business."The Internet providers throughout North Carolina and throughout the United States now know what's expected of them. It's accurate and understandable information for the services and for the prices."AOL will not be able to increase fees or modify its contracts with subscribers without giving 30 days notice.
Terms of free trial offers must be disclosed and procedures for canceling subscriptions must be clearly explained. Easley says many subscribers didn't read the "fine print" and AOL made it difficult."It's put in fine print so people won't see it or won't recognize it or think it's important. That's what we're getting changed today and that's why the consumers will win on this settlement."Subscribers across the country have already received $34 million in refunds or additional service. More than 100 complaints about AOL were made to theN.C. Attorney General'sConsumer Protection Section.
North Carolina gets more than $75,000 of the more than $2.5 million AOL will pay to the 44 states. That money is for investigative costs and consumer education.