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MSN said it is working with financial institutions to prevent the recurrence of a billing cock-up today that left its US subscribers out of pocket.

Over a thousand customers had $500 wrongly deducted from their accounts this week as part of a trial of a new billing system, although the number could be much higher, admits Microsoft. MSNBC's reporter Brock Meeks who first reported the story, says that the company did not begin to work on a general alert to all MSN subscribers until it had been contacted by the media, preferring to deal with the problem on a case-by-case basis. MSNBC cites a subscriber who faced bouncing checks and was who unable to withdraw cash as a result of the snafu.

According to a spokesperson, Microsoft says it accidentally authorized credit cards companies to deduct the amount - the value of a current MSN rebate co-promotion - from customers accounts.

Microsoft says it did not receive the money itself, and will give a month's free subscription
(worth $19) to affected customers. Since that barely covers the cost of a bounced check, let alone a cancelled evening out resulting from a fruitless journey to an ATM machine, we'd be surprised if the final figure isn't higher. ®

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