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AOL UK is to start charging customers who call its customer and technical support helplines.

The ISP intends to charge its customers up to 7.5p a minute depending on the time of day.

The new charges come into effect on August 1 and are believed to be the first time AOL UK has made its punters pay for calling its helplines.

Until now the 0800 tech support line has been a selling point for the family-friendly ISP.

But in an email to users today the company explains that the switch to a new charged-for 0870 number will "ensure we can continue to provide the highest quality member services".

It goes on: "This change will enable us to invest in further significant enhancements to our customer services, and ensure we continue to provide market-leading support for the wide range of features and content AOL delivers to our members now, and in the future."

However, not everyone will have to cough up to speak to tech support. Punters who sign up to the ISP's AOL Talk phone service can still call the helpline for free.

Said AOL in a statement: "The new customer and technical support number still represents one of the best value customer service options on the market, as many other Internet providers charge premium rates for support." ®

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