AOL - AOL - 3 month free trial - cancelled, but continued to receive charges from AOL and Credit Alert

Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2002 at 12:00am CDT by 984f417b

Company: AOL

Category: Internet Services

My husband had signed up for a 3 month free trial service with AOL in April '02 and decided that he didn't want the service. So, he had sent in an online request to AOL (still within the 3 month trial period) for cancellation in June 2002. As he did not get any reply or any acknowledgement of receipt of his request from AOL for some time (and by then his free trial period had expired), he noticed on his checking account that a fee of $ 28.90 was charged by AOL.

He called to check if his cancellation request got through. The representative he talked to said that a cancellation request can only be accepted by their cancellation department, that his first request was not granted. Subsequently, he called and talked to a representative at the cancellation department, finally got his cancellation straightened out, and agreed to accept the charged fee since he apparently was at fault for not submitting his request to the right department, although he expected AOL to get back to him after the first request within a reasonable amount of time to advise him of the correct cancellation procedure as a good business courtesy. Considering that everything was settled, he finds out within a few days that he's checking account was again charged in the amount of $57.80 (2x $28.90) by AOL. He called and talked to a representative named Don and finds out, to his surprise, that he had a second account with AOL, which he was not aware of. As it turns out, my husband had mistakenly opened up another free trial account while registering for the first account.

Now, AOL's online registration process was unclear and did not give a confirmation of the registration process being completed at the time (my sister has also experienced this and got charged for it unknowingly). At any rate, if he's had this second account as long as he had his first account (which he cancelled), why $57.80? According to Don, it should have actually been $28.90 and the rest must have been a mistake on their part. My husband had explained to Don that he never intended to have a second account (not to mention that he never received any confirmation on this) and didn't feel that it was justifiable to get charged for that. So, not only did he ask for the cancellation of any services that he may have with AOL, he also claimed for the full reimbursement of $57.80 ($28.90 plus the wrongly charged fee of $28.90). Needless to say, requesting a cancellation and the reimbursement from AOL is almost an impossible task.

Don wouldn't refund it in full but offered him to reimburse half of the fees ($28.90), if he took up their service for another 3 months for free. By then, my husband lost any patience or energy to even have to negotiate all through this, he had agreed to a further 3 month service to, at least, get his $28.90, for which he got mistakenly charged. Two months later (Aug '02), he learned that another fee of $79.99 had been taken out from his checking account by Credit Alert with references to AOL. He called again to find out what this is all about and who on earth is Credit Alert. The first representative named Chad Anderson stated that they apparently signed him up for a service with Credit Alert and AOL had forwarded my husband's account information to them.

My husband, enraged, said that he did NOT give his consent to be signed up for such service and that it be cancelled immediately and the fee be reimbursed. Chad claimed that AOL has nothing to do with his account with Credit Alert that my husband is to clarify the matter with them. So, I called AOL again and talked to another rep named Monica, asking how on earth AOL could give out the personal information of their customer to a third party without his consent. She claimed something completely different from Chad, that AOL in no way gives out their customers' information to a third party and she could neither say how Credit Alert had my husband's personal information nor what AOL's relationship was to them. Experiencing inconsistency in AOL's reps explanation, I called AOL again to complain about the whole incidence. The third rep named Denise also claimed that AOL has nothing to do with Credit Alert and does not give customer information to them, that we had to settle this matter with them. She was not only rude but had also insinuated that my husband can only be the one who signed up for the service with Credit Alert, and if he didn't, then somebody else in our family must have done it, and hang up on me. The next day, I called Credit Alert and asked them what their relationship was to AOL. The rep explained that AOL does offer their customers Credit Alert's three month free service together with AOL's free trial service, and signs them up on their behalf. However, Credit Alert's service has nothing to do with AOL's service, and, if the customer cancels the service with AOL, it doesn't mean the service with Credit Alert gets cancelled automatically, but the customer is notified by a letter after three months asking whether he would want to continue their service at an annual fee of $79.99.

My husband had never received such letter from Credit Alert, and didn't even know such company existed to this day. The rep could not verify whether such letter has been sent to my husband's attention due to the system breakdown they were experiencing that day. So, I called Credit Alert the next day and talk to another rep named Jose, who then told me a completely different story from his colleague. He claimed that, if the customer cancels the service with AOL, his service with Credit Alert gets AUTOMATICALLY cancelled. Furthermore, he told me that one must be very careful with AOL, because things like that happens all the time. Then I said, how could he say that when Credit Alert actually works with AOL, gets the customers' information from them, and charges fees on their bank account without their consent?

While I did not get any rational explanation from Jose, he did process the cancellation and confirmed the reimbursement. In the meantime, I spoke with his supervisor named Linda to address the whole dilemma as a consumer fraud. Her reply, however, was "well, the service is now cancelled and you'll get your reimbursement, so where is the problem? If you have any complaints, then you should take it up with AOL". She did not even show any concerns on how customers are mistakenly being signed up for their service by AOL. The whole problem is that none of these customer service reps listen to their customers, they deny their fraudulent business operations, they do not take any responsibilities for giving misleading and inconsistent information to their customers, and the burden is all on the consumers to clarify problems. We got to know another woman on the internet who had encountered exactly the same problem with AOL and Credit Alert. According to her, AOL kept charging on her credit card for services she never subscribed to, and subsequently, she had to cancel her credit card, and in the meantime, her credit report has a flaw. My husband is now forced to change his bank account in fear of getting charged by AOL for some services he's never even subscribed to. These companies must be put under a close investigation to protect consumers who are increasingly falling under the victims of fraud. Bernadette


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