Dissatisfied with AOL and you want to cancel your AOL membership?

Before you call AOL Customer Service, read this page first word for word!

All in all I have read about and heard of horror stories of people wanting to cancel their membership with AOL only to have to deal with a nerve wracking experience.  Examples of such experiences I have read and/or heard include surly customer service representatives trying to keep the customer to customers whose credit cards continue to be charged even after a successful AOL membership cancellation.  The recent news about Vincent Ferrari and his quest to cancel his AOL membership have inspired me to come up with this web topic.


Before I go further please let me give you this sort of disclaimer:  I have nothing personal against AOL and the services it provides such as AOL Instant Messenger, among other things.  Rather, I believe AOL should revamp their customer service procedures when it comes to member requests such as membership cancellation and help with the uninstallation of the AOL software, both of which I believe can be a tricky process.


One AOL Member's Cancellation Saga:  Vincent Ferrari


This is an ordinary customer who I believe was not using AOL and this customer called AOL for the purpose of cancelling his membership.  After having to wade through the evils of Interactive Voice Response to get through to a live customer service representative, cancelling the AOL membership would be as easy as saying "I want to cancel my AOL membership".  Not easy.


Instead, the customer service representative basically tried everything at the representative's disposal to keep Vincent from leaving AOL.  The representative kept asking more and more questions rather than listening to a request that the AOL membership be cancelled and the cancellation request be put through.  All in all Vincent kept reiterating to the representative that he wanted his AOL membership cancelled and the representative eventually cancelled Vincent's membership but in the process the representative almost hung up the phone on Vincent and treated Vincent in a discourteous manner.  During this whole process Vincent recorded the telephone conversation with the AOL representative.


After the recording was played on several media outlets nationwide AOL stepped up to the plate and apologized to Vincent for the service he received.  After all, this is a fine gentleman who clearly stood up for his rights as a customer.


Other AOL Horror Stories


There are a lot of other AOL horror stories out there but there are two types I would like to share with you:


AOL Software


As everyone knows AOL is a software based online service of which everyone knows the AOL CDs that are sent to you or you can pick one up.  Or, the AOL software may be already preinstalled for you when you purchase that new computer.  However, I believe AOL has a "bring your own access" plan in which you pay a reduced monthly fee in exchange for you accessing AOL using your high speed Internet connection.


If AOL is not fully installed on your new computer:  You will see an icon on your desktop for setting up AOL on your new computer.  If you already have an Internet Service Provider don't click on the icon.  Instead, delete the icon from your desktop.


Next, you will want to delete the AOL installer programs from your computer.  Typically the AOL installer programs are contained in the Online Services folder located in the Program Files folder on your hard drive (which is the C: drive).  Simply open My Computer and navigate to the Online Services folder; once there delete the AOL folder.  While you are there you may want to delete the other online service providers' folders (a typical setup includes AOL, CompuServe and EarthLink plus a few others).  Besides, you don't need them if you have DSL or cable modem service (and think of the extra hard drive space you gain).

CAUTION!  Browse through the Program Files with care!  The Program Files folder is where your computer's programs reside.  Deleting a known program you have installed on your computer (for example, Microsoft Office) can bring unexpected results.  So, use extreme caution if deleting files in your Program Files folder.  The same thing goes for your Windows and System folders as well.

If AOL is installed on your computer:  First you will have to uninstall the AOL software, if you can.  I have heard a lot of horror stories about bits and pieces of AOL left behind after a successful uninstallation of the AOL software.  If after uninstalling the AOL software the proper way through Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel your computer's performance has taken a nose dive you may have to take your computer to a repair shop for help in cleaning out the bits and pieces that is slowing your computer down.


AOL Billing


Signing up for AOL is easy, but cancelling your AOL membership is like trying to scale Mount Everest.


When you call AOL and speak to the customer service representative to cancel your membership, you have every right to cancel.  But be warned, like Vincent Ferrari experienced when he cancelled his AOL membership, the AOL representative will do anything and everything to keep you as an AOL member.  I would repeat this every time the AOL representative tries every way to keep you as an AOL member:  "I wish to cancel my AOL membership".


If the AOL representative begins to treat you on the phone in a rude or otherwise discourteous manner get the representative's name and politely ask to speak to a supervisor.  If the AOL representative denies you access and treats you more discourteously hang up and call AOL back immediately!


Next is the issue of how you are billed for AOL.  For most AOL members this billing is taken care of by a major credit card for the monthly fee.  From what I understand even after an AOL member cancels his or her membership AOL continues to bill the monthly fee to the credit card used at initial signup.


Here is an action plan for dealing with your credit card as to the charges billed by AOL every month after you cancel your AOL membership:


Contact your credit card company (for MasterCard and Visa, this would be your issuing bank) at their customer service number.  Inform the customer service representative of your credit card issuer that you have a monthly recurring charge for AOL and that you have cancelled your AOL membership and, as such, you are refusing any further charges from AOL.


Follow up with a letter to your credit card company, Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested, stating that you are refusing any further charges from AOL.


Send a copy of the letter that you sent to your credit card company to AOL customer service.  While we are on the subject of AOL customer service you may want to send a letter to AOL customer service along with the copy of the letter to your credit card company stating that you explicitly wish to cancel your AOL membership.


If despite all your best efforts to get the AOL charges stopped you are still being continually billed by AOL, call your credit card company at their 24-hour lost or stolen card number and explain to your credit card company that your credit card account number has been compromised and that you need a new account number.  This may leave you without a credit card for a few days until your card issuer sends you a replacement (the old account number is cancelled immediately to prevent further charges), but at least it's a sure-fire way to stop AOL from charging your credit card any further.


Now if despite all your best efforts you are being treated unfairly by either your credit card company or AOL or both, you may want to consider contacting your local consumer protection office.