AOL users may unnecessarily be paying for accounts


AOL used to be the big dog. Now it is scrambling with other Internet companies to find and keep its place in the world. The New Yorker magazine says the lion's share of the company's income comes from subscribers and many of them don't need to pay for the service. Could you be one of them?

Debbie Newman operates a successful catering company and much of her business is booked through her AOL email account.

"So I signed up for AOL, they had the email address, Debbie's Catering, that I wanted, and I continue to keep it because a lot of my customers, I do a lot of corporate catering, and they leave the company, but they remember my email address, so they will call," Newman said.

She pays $4.99 a month. Newman doesn't like paying that fee, with all the free email accounts out there, but she feels like she has to keep the AOL account.

"So have you asked them, 'Can I just keep the address and not pay you per month?'" Michael Finney asked Newman.

"Yes, and they told me it was $4.99," she said.

It isn't much, but still, $4.99 a month comes out to almost $60 a year.

Alex Wawro is the associate editor at PC World Magazine.

"I do not know anybody who pays for their AOL account; I know people who keep their old AOL screen name just in case they want to use them or for old times' sake, but nobody I know pays for them," he said.

AOL offers a lot of plans and services and some find benefit, but Wawro says you don't have to pay to hang on to your AOL email address.

"If you have a paid AOL account it is actually relatively easy to downgrade your account to a free level," Wawro said. "So if you are paying for your account, all you have to do is log into it and then go to your account settings and select 'change my billing plan' and just downgrade to a cheaper account. And if you want to have a free account, you just downgrade all the way to free."

Even if you don't think you have a paid AOL account, it is worth your time to pull out your credit card statements. The bill monitoring service says it finds customers charged for AOL dial up service they thought they had abandoned long ago.

"And what I would recommend to all of your viewers out there is to take a look, if you used to subscribe to AOL dial up, it may still be on your bill and you can actually take action very quickly by calling them up and have it cancelled," BillGuard's Yaron Samid said.

7 On Your Side has been in contact with AOL, but had not yet received any information from the company on these issues.

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