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AOL has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that it made it too difficult for US subscribers to cancel their accounts.

The company admits no wrongdoing but it is amending its cancellation practices following the FTC's intervention.

Here is the nub of the FTC's complaint:

...most AOL subscribers who want to cancel their Internet service call AOL's customer service department. The complaint alleges that AOL's customer service representatives were responsible for trying to persuade consumers to change their minds about cancelling their AOL service. The FTC charged that AOL failed to implement appropriate measures to ensure that all customer requests for cancellation were properly executed. As a result, in numerous instances, subscribers who requested cancellation continued to be charged monthly service fees. The complaint alleges that this unfairly harmed consumers.

"No company should retain subscribers against their wishes," said Lydia Parnes, deputy director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "When consumers cancel their service, they expect the billing to stop."

Separately, AOL's Compuserve unit received a rap on the knuckles for "unfairly" extending the delivery of a $400 rebate to customers who had signed up on a three year promo. This caused "substantial injury to consumers whose rebates were not delivered within the time promised".

Parnes said: "This type of offer can be very appealing, especially to consumers who otherwise might be unable to afford a computer."

The FTC press release is here

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