Why Does AOL Instant Messenger Mobile Use Text Messages Without Telling Me?

Heather tells Consumerist that has AOL Instant Messenger installed on her smartphone, but doesn’t really use it. Lately, she’s left the program running more often, and made an alarming discovery: she was charged for 800 text messages, even though she didn’t send 800 text messages. The culprit? AIM, of course. Each IM to and from her phone was charged as a text message.

I feel like I’m reasonably savvy when it comes to my phone, but I am in a pickle where I’m getting charged for messages I had no idea were text messages.

I have AIM on my T-mobile Android phone and have used it from time to time. Once I set it up (years ago!), it opens automatically when I restart my phone. This was never a problem, I’d turn AIM off (because of the annoying messages I would get regarding chats I had already read on my computer) but with my phone battery getting less and less powerful and my phone shutting off more between charges, AIM has been on more than it’s been off.

So when I logged into my account to update my credit card info and saw that I had 800+ texts on my 400 text a month plan I was shocked! Turns out AIM messages count as text messages? There is no paid service warning when it automatically starts, the messages do not appear in my text message folder, they are separate. I had no idea!

I am on auto pay, and each month my bill is about the same amount given a little bit here and there which I don’t fret so I don’t pour over my bill to see what’s up. I also don’t get a paper bill, so it’s just an email. I had no reason to look and see that these messages have been occurring and counting towards my limit for months since I wasn’t going over my limit or if I did it was by hardly anything and I thought it was just 411 usage charges.

I have called customer service and they won’t credit me the $80, instead they want me to switch plans to cover it. I feel like if something is a paid service it should be made VERY obvious at the outset. Am I drunk here or does this just seem wrong? I’ve been with them for almost 5 years!

What do you think, Hive Mind? Does it seem logical to you that an Internet service would gobble up your text message allotment?