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January 30, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 1:06pm

AOL OFFERS KEYWORD:CANCEL AND DISCOURAGES NEW MEMBERS

By CBR Staff Writer

America Online Inc’s (AOL) problems deepened still further yesterday, as the US’ largest online service provider faced the indignity of turning away news subscribers and inserting a clause in its contracts explaining that its services is subject to availability at peak times. Dulles, Virginia-based AOL says it will hold its subscriber base at its approximate 8 million level until it is confident that it can cope with any new users, let alone the current ones who can’t log-on or even get through to the toll-free number to cancel their subscription. The company said it will cut back on television advertising and curtail the bundling of disks on the front of magazines to actively discourage new members. Nobody was available at the company to tell us whether AOL would be recommending any of its rivals as alternative ISPs – but no doubt consumers can make their own mind up about that without AOL’s help. AT&T’s WorldNet and the beleaguered Prodigy have reported faster growth this month than normal. AOL is also making it easier for users to cancel – there have been numerous complaints from users trying to get shot of AOL and being unable to get through. Disgruntled members can now fax and mail as well as phone or access through Keyword: Cancel. Attorneys General of 37 states also agreed a compensation package for members yesterday at a meeting in Chicago. Anybody who feels they have a grievance and desire the one month’s credit member ship fee should write to the company’s refund section in Ogden, Utah. AOL recently upped its fund for upgrading its service by $100m to $350m and says that once the 150,000 or so modems have been added to the 200,000 already installed it will be able to cope with 16 million member sessions daily by June. (CI No 3,081). AOL’s shares closed up $2.375 at $37.625, because as Wall Street seems to view it, AOL gets the $20 fee for unlimited use regardless of whether anybody gets through or not. But for how much longer is anybody’s guess. As well as the compensation, AOL also faces costs of increasing its customer service staff by 600 to 4,500 by June.

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