Spitzer Fines AOL $1.25m

26 August 2005

New York attorney-general Eliot Spitzer on Wednesday took another giant step in his political career progress toward the state's gubernatorial mansion.

Some say Spitzer has cast himself in the title role of an imaginary movie entitled Batman Battles Big Business - perhaps inspired by the elevation of another single-minded ham to the governorship of California.

The latest in Batman's long line of corporate victims is Time Warner's America Online, whom he has charged and convicted of wrongfully impeding the resignation of subscribers via an "elaborate system for rewarding employees" who retained AOL subscribers.

According to the Caped Chiroptera: "In many instances, such retention was done against subscribers' wishes, or without their consent". AOL admits that "at various times since 2000", in order to receive portions of their salary, it required staff to retain a certain percentage of quitting customers.

In an agreed settlement, AOL will pay $1.25 million (€1.02m; £695.8k) in penalties and costs to New York state, plus additional compensation of up to four months free service to all citizens who complained about its cancellation practices.

Bowing to the inevitable, a company spokesman gritted his teeth: "AOL is pleased that we have reached an agreement with the state of New York on customer care practices that we believe will increase quality assurance," he said.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff