AOL - AOL - problems with credit card billing / direct billing

Posted on Tuesday, February 11th, 2003 at 12:00am CST by b1a7bbff

Company: AOL

Category: Internet Services

In December '01 I purchased a computer from Gateway, and AOL was included in the package free for one year. I was asked for a credit card number, and I told the representative I wanted to be direct billed. He stated that they still needed the credit card number to open the account and that they would bill me.

I was not notified in any way of the exact date of the cut-off of the included AOL or of the time when any amount of money was charged to my credit card. The only way I found out that any thing had been charged to my credit card was when AOL attempted to charge the card again and it was too close to the limit and didn't allow the charges to go through, so AOL notified me by pop-up when I attempted to sign on this morning that I had to change my method of billing. I called the customer service number and got a young man named Lifrage Lasane, who was somewhat helpful, but insisted that AOL doesn't have to notify their customers because by giving them the number initially I was authorizing them to do it without notification. Wrong!!!!

After a lengthy conversation with this young man, during which he told me that there were no hidden charges and that I could be assured that when I updated my billing info that $23.90 would be electronically transferred from whatever account I designated on the 24th of each month and that would be unlimited usage with no other fees attached. After getting off the phone with him I went back into AOL and began to update my information. I gave AOL a VISA check card number from a relatively new checking account that has a substantial amount of cash in it, and it was rejected - no idea why, other than your system doesn't recognize that it's a different number. In order to update the account I had to give checking account info on the same account I mentioned above in regard to the check card, for which I will be charged an additional $5.00 per month. this is a shaky policy.

While updating the billing info, a screen popped up that was a billing agreement that I had to type "agree" on before it would take my information, but it had no "print" or "save" feature so I could keep a copy of what I was agreeing to, and here's the kicker - it noted AOL's responsibility to notify me by Email of any transfer of funds, stated that I would be given account information "under separate cover", and it had a disclaimer in it allowing AOL to charge me differing amounts at will. All of those issues were addressed at great length with the CSR I spoke with, and none was addressed correctly by your representative. the only reason I kept going with the process after seeing the agreement was because I had to be able to get on line to issue this complaint. Here are the issues your company has to address if you do not want customers to take their complaints to higher authorities: 1. regardless of method of payment, any time funds are transferred from any account there has to be notiication, even if it's Email, it has to be printable so a copy can be kept. this did not happen with at least one withdrawal on my credit card, and that means for at least a couple of weeks I had charges on that account that I had no way of accounting for. I could easily have mistaken this for stolen credit card info and reported it as identity or credit card fraud, and when traced back to AOL, regulatory agencies would be coming out of the woodwork to examine your methods. 2. Direct billing has to be available if a customer so wishes. According to your representative, direct billing was only available during the year 2002, and I know that's not true because my husband set up an account on a work computer in 2000 and it was direct billed. 3. Your representatives in the field that are selling your product with their computer packages have to be able to give accurate information if direct billing is not available, and your CSRs on your phone system have to be aware that you can direct bill and that your on-line billing agreement states that you will be sending amount information "under separate cover" so mailing is not the issue - you're already obligated by your own agreement to mail. 4. You have to provide a print copy of the "agree" screen to your customers. If you do not they have nothing in writing showing what they agreed to, and if it does not match your actions and/or what they are told on the phone, they have very little recourse but to take their complaints to an agency such as the Better Business Bureau who advocate for consumers who feel like they're fighting a mist. FYI - with some companies I tape every conversation I have. I have not reached that point with AOL but today's experience may indicate that it's necessary with you as well.


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