CT Watchdog: Check for fees from AOL

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When AOL launched its dial-up service more than 20 years ago, most of us were happy to pay the money to be connected to the Internet and pay for the privilege of the slow connection and weird noise when the connection was made.

Unfortunately today thousands of people are still paying $25 a month for their AOL dial-up connection even though they don't need it since they have cable or DSL Internet service.

That is what David Reik of Farmington discovered when he went over to his parents' East Hartford home recently.

Despite having cable Internet service for years, Reik said he found out that James and Cynthia Reik were still paying AOL $25 each month.

He immediately called AOL on behalf of his parents - who are in their 80s - and canceled their dial-up service. He said he asked AOL for a refund for some of their past wasted payments, but of course he was refused.

"I talked to my father about it this morning. He said something like, 'Explain this to me: What is 'dial-up service?' But he was aware of the New Yorker quote about the majority of AOL's current subscribers being older people who were paying for something they didn't need," he wrote me.

Did you see the article on AOL in the Jan. 24, 2011 New Yorker? Reik asked me. The article contains this passage:

"The company still gets eighty percent of its profits from subscribers, many of whom are older people who have cable or DSL service but don't realize that they need not pay an additional twenty-five dollars a month to get online and check their e-mail. 'The dirty little secret,' a former AOL executive says, 'is that seventy-five percent of the people who subscribe to AOL's dial-up service don't need it.' "

No wonder AOL doesn't send out notices to its customers to stop paying for dial-up service when they don't need it. AOL also failed to respond to my questions on this issue.

"The big issue for me is AOL's policy regarding people (not just my parents) who are paying for dial-up service but are not using it.

AOL doesn't seem to be making any effort to let these people know that, unless they are getting on to the Internet via a telephone number, they don't have to pay AOL $25 a month," David Reik said.

It's not just old people that don't understand that AOL dial up service is unnecessary. After my wife and I moved in together a few years ago and started sharing our finances I discovered she was paying a $10 monthly fee for AOL e-mail, which then was available for free.

For more information on the HES programs and for a program for low-income families, call 1(877) WISE-USE or visit www.CTEnergyInfo.com.

You can reach The Watchdog at George@connecticutwatchdog.com and he will answer as many e-mails as he can. Check out his site, www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, media, internet, computer, travel and education tips.

Cut your utility bill

On average, as a Connecticut resident, you can save $200 annually over the next several years on your home energy bill because reducing your bill year-round has never been easier.

Just contact the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund's Home Energy Solutions (HES) program.

During the energy assessment, the technician will:

• Locate and seal drafts, cracks and leaks throughout your home.

• Evaluate wall/attic insulation and analyze appliances.

• Provide and install energy-saving lighting.

• Provide and install hot water-saving, low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.

• Provide rebate information for HVAC upgrades as well as certain appliance replacements with ENERGY STAR-qualified products.

• Discuss and leave you with information about money-saving tips to stay energy efficient throughout the year.

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