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Free Internet Offer Costs Cary Man $330

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CARY — America Online offers free Internet service, but accepting AOL's free offer ended up costing Peter Flasch $330!

Flasch signed up for a free trial month in August 1999. As required, he gave his checking account information for future billing should he decide to keep AOL's service. But before the end of the trial period, Flasch canceled. Everything appeared to be fine.

"I checked the September bill -- no charge. I checked the October bill -- no charge. I checked the November bill -- no charge. I was happy," he says.

Then in January 2001, he noticed AOL drafted his checking account.

"It's not so big. I mean it's $21.95. It is not an amount which you overreact," he says.

But when Flasch looked back at his checking account statements, he realized AOL had been drafting $21.95 dollars from his account for the past 15 months.

He figured it was an easy fix, so he called AOL. A representative told him the company was only responsible for discrepancies reported within 90 days, and therefore AOL would only refund him $66.

Flasch wrote several letters to AOL and contacted the Better Business Bureau, but he did not get anywhere, so he called Five On Your Side. Five On Your Side called AOL, and spokesman Andrew Weinstein restated the company's 90-day police, but he agreed to credit Flasch's account for the full $330 as a matter of customer service.

Flasch is, of course, glad he pursued it and realizes what he really got is a "free" lesson on why not checking your monthly bank statements can cost you.

"I check every line of it now. I am more careful -- much more careful," he says.

Had Flasch noticed the error sooner, the law and his bank would have been on his side as well. You only have 60 days to dispute charges with your bank or credit card company.. If you do not act within that time period, you lose your right to challenge the charge.


Monica Laliberte, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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