Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

AOL Long on Talk Short on Refunds Recordings, Busy Signals Frustrate Many Callers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

AOL Long on Talk Short on Refunds Recordings, Busy Signals Frustrate Many Callers

Article excerpt

A search of America Online's Web page Thursday found no documents containing the word "refund."

That's emblematic of the troubles AOL subscribers had getting information one day after the online company promised to make good on its "unlimited access" service. In a settlement announced Wednesday with the attorneys general of 37 states, AOL said it would offer monthly credits or refunds, depending on subscribers' hours of usage. This was to make up for the busy signals, disconnections and "please try again later" messages that have dogged customers in the last two months since AOL introduced flat-rate pricing.

After several states threatened lawsuits, AOL promised to refund as much as $39.90, depending on the number of hours per month that customers w ere able to get online. AOL topped the 8 million mark in customers earlier this month. The catch was that each customer had to request the refund or credit. Apparently, few customers got any satisfaction Thursday. AOL was hardly responding ASAP. Member services pages did not provide information on requesting refunds or credits. Nor did the America Online press release site. Not until late Thursday did AOL's toll-free number for customer service offer a voice-mail choice for requesting refunds or credits. Through the day, callers to the toll-free number who tried to navigate the many-branched voice-mail system in search of "a real person to talk to" often found a recording at the end of their search, saying all representatives were busy and please try again later. Those who were successful in getting a human voice on the other end were no better off. The customer service representatives had no answers for questions out of their subject area, and none had been assigned to talk about refunds or credits. "I tried every option for two hours," Arvind Bisarya, a structural engineer living in Ballwin, said mid-afternoon Thursday. "I get a recording, `people are busy; call back.' And they hang up on me. …

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