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article imageOp-Ed: Paying for nothing — AOL billing customer wrongly for 6 years Special

By Ernest Dempsey     Oct 8, 2011 in Internet
A Texas resident has found that he has been billed by AOL for the past nearly 6 years for an internet service he stopped using in 2006.
If you haven’t been into reading the details of your Internet service bills, shown on your account statement, now is time to change the habit; maybe you are paying for what you never got, particularly if you are an AOL customer. If that sounds finicky, one AOL user has something to share that will caution you against paying with comfort.
Steve Skarritt, 53, of Katy, Texas, is a painting contractor who signed up for AOL’s high speed Internet service for using at his office in 2002, while AOL was partnered with Time Warner. When Time Warner left the area in 2006, Steve was left with a dial-up Internet service, which he started using at home after selling his office place in late 2006. He never cared to read his bank statements in detail as it was all handled by a bookkeeper for his business. Only recently, when Steve got a billing problem notification on his bank statement last week, he noticed the continued payment for his AOL account straight from his bank. He had been paying AOL for high speed Internet for about 6 years without ever knowing it!
Realizing that he had lost between $3000 to $4000 thousand in payments for a service never provided, Steve couldn’t keep himself from writing to AOL about the issue. As shared on his blog, the AOL fraud supervisor told him that Time Warner was still billing them for his business AOL Internet service. But upon learning that Steve was in contact with Time Warner about the issue, the concerned AOL employee shifted to the position of not having been informed by Time Warner to disconnect his service. Time Warner, however, has no data showing Steve had their connection. Steve marks the costly lapse as the sole responsibility of AOL. The legal advice he got confirms it.
“I keep getting told about TOS and a lawyer told me TOS can't break the law and my being charged for services not rendered is breaking the law. Law is more powerful than TOS,” says Steve, who has filed a fraud case with his bank over wrong billing. And still, AOL has not been responding to his case with acknowledgment of their lapse and offering apology and/or full refund of his money.
Screenshot by Steve Skarritt
“Yes I want my money refunded,” Steve stresses, adding that while he is not much into litigation, he will go to the court against the company if he had to: “I don't want to take them to court but I will, just for principle. I don't think they're getting away with wrongful billing like they used.” While Steve is getting free service now, he wants all Internet service buyers to be careful: “Buyer beware is all I can say.”
Beside other things, the struggle to get things right, Steve has spent both dollars and hours on researching directories, making email and phone lists, and contacting people on the lists—all to the yet disappointing status of no result. “In the past 13 days I've spent about 170 hours doing research, emailing, phone calls, following up on everything I could,” says he in disappointment. He hopes perhaps somebody will notice this post and get things moving toward a solution to his problem.
Having found himself wrongly billed and paying without knowing, Steve has also learnt that he is not the first one to have fallen victim to AOL’s billing problem—he has read about similar controversy on AOL’s Wikipedia page and the issue has made news in the past. Steve, however, hopes that he will be the last person to lose money to AOL for services not rendered while he says the final bye to the company whose email service he still uses for his business.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about AOL billing, wrong billing, Steve Skarritt, internet bill, Time warner
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