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AOL Time Warner is the least trusted company on the planet among e-shoppers, a survey out today claims.

Around 37 per cent said they had a high level of distrust for the company, according to the Gartner Group.

The 1,250 adult surfers surveyed for the report - which compared AOL to banks, brokerages, credit card companies, e-tailers and retailers - also seemed wary of Microsoft.

Slightly less than a third said they were very distrustful of the software giant.

Meanwhile, at the other extreme, 17 per cent said they really trusted Microsoft and 15 per cent said the same about AOL - presumably none of these were AOL employees waiting to see if their job was about to be axed.

"AOL has always viewed itself as the 'consumers' advocate' but this survey clearly dispels that myth," Avivah Litan, Gartner VP and research director, said.

High distrust levels are due to "all the solicitations people get with AOL...They think it's an invasion of their privacy, and to be frank, it is," she says.

Gartner said the fact that more people trusted Microsoft gave the software company "an important leg up in its battle with AOL for online services." ®

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