Is AOL ripping off your mom? …or stepdad, or aunt, or neighbor? Mainstreet.com gets to the bottom of why AOL continues to charge many, many not-terribly-Internet-savvy customers for their AOL e-mail accounts. You know, the same AOL accounts that are actually offered for free and have been since 2006. [MainStreet]

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  1. Michael Belisle says:

    This is, of course, a situation not unlike the grandmother who rented her rotary phone for 42 years.

  2. K-Bo says:

    My grandmother still pays for it, but it’s because she lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and actually still uses dial-up, which isn’t free. We keep telling her to get something faster but she says the computer already moves faster than her, why would she want it to move faster.

    • dohtem says:

      @K-Bo: This is about the @aol.com email accounts they offer, not their dial-up service.

      • Tankueray says:

        @K-Bo: I signed up in 1995 and added my parents and grandparents as users later after I got better internet service. They still use it as dial-up, it’s the only thing they know. My mom now has DSL, and my grandparents are connected to my wireless. I’ve told them about this more than a few times, but they don’t want to cancel because my “internet might not work”. They are precisely the customers AOL wants to keep. I even think they’re still paying $20/month.

        Anyway to get back to the topic as @dothem so rudely pointed out, they did not send out the email about the free service to everyone with an AOL email account, but just to the main account holder. That would be me, and I haven’t checked that email in about 12 years.

      • K-Bo says:

        @dohtem: I know, that’s why I said she still pays because she uses dial up. My dad still uses his aol email, but they quit charging him when he converted it from dial up to road runner. I was pointing out that there are valid situations where a relative would still be charged for aol.

  3. dohtem says:

    First she explained that when AOL introduced free accounts on August 2, 2006 and there was a big media blitz to make sure that all AOL subscribers knew about the change. Every subscriber got an email, there was a press release

    Why didn’t they just drop the monthly bill of email only users to $0.00?

  4. David Bixenspan says:

    Somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that at the time of the switch, the lowest priced account ($5 monthly) was for connecting to AOL via TCP/IP through another ISP or a small number of hours via their dial-up. This was a merger of the formerly $10 TCP/IP plan and the lowest level dial-up plan. There was no TCP/IP-only plan at this point. Now, if they had a way to see how recently people had used the dial-up service and automate it based on that…

  5. ChChChacos says:

    I’ve been telling my own mother that she’s been ripped off for years but she’s just behind in times and wont listen to me or wont make an effort to understand every time I point this out to her. Thanks consumerist for the link, I just forwarded it along to my mother..hopefully she’ll get the picture this time.

  6. bennilynn says:

    Good luck trying to cancel the service, though. I was attempting to assist a colleague do this not too long ago. You press the option for ‘Cancel my AOL service’ and the darn thing hangs up on you. Get to a rep a different way, say you want to cancel, they either hang up on your or ‘transfer’ you to a mysterious land were your call is once again disconnected.

    She ended up having to close the credit card they were billing to just to get it to stop.

    Really, the whole brand is essentially a scam now.

    • MentallyRetired says:

      @bennilynn: You make it too hard, you don’t even have to call. Just go to keyword Billing or myaccount.aol.com and under price plan select Change My Plan and then select Free/Cancel my Bill.

      • christoj879 says:

        @MentallyRetired: Verily, that’s all there is to it – just did it yesterday for someone. To give bennilynn credit, you DO have to know your security question to get into the billing section, but other than that the post is a big load.

    • Joshua Fryer says:

      @bennilynn: Even if what @MentallyRetired did not work, your colleague could have called her credit card company to refuse and/or dispute payments to AOL. That would have been much smarter than closing a whole line of credit (negatively affecting his/her credit score).

  7. elc32955 says:

    I’ve had my AOL email address close to twenty years now and I have it out to contacts in many different areas. I tried to convert when AOL offered their “free” EMAIL access and found that if you’re an existing paid customer, AOL will not downgrade and convert either your existing master screen name or any of the other screen names you’ve registered to a free account. So, the decision was whether to completely delete the account or not and start from scratch. This is sorta like killing the home phone number you’ve had forever without a portability option. Now there’s an idea, EMAIL address portability :)