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Disney suffers billing glitch

Some subscribers to Disney's online service Daily Blast complain they were billed twice, which the company blames on a technical error.

A billing glitch has caused some customers of Disney's Daily Blast, the popular subscription-based online service for children, to get billed twice, but executives said they are working to correct the problem.

"Due to a technical error, you were accidentally billed twice," Disney said in an email message to members, which was received by CNET's NEWS.COM on Saturday. "You will receive a refund for the overcharged amount on your next credit card statement. We hope this has not caused an inconvenience and appreciate your patience."

Disney Online spokeswoman Rebecca Buxton today confirmed the problem. She said it affected a "small percentage" of the service's customers, but she declined to say how many. Disney has not disclosed how many total subscribers it has, either.

Buxton said the company learned about the problem last week when some customers noticed the double billing on their credit cards, and assigned a team to fix it.

The billing glitch occurred when an order transmission was sent in late November to the company's banking partner, FirstUSA. "We were told it was rejected, so we re-sent it," Buxton said of the transmission. "Although it looked like it was being rejected, it wasn't."

The company said it has set up a special toll-free number to handle customer inquiries about the problem.

Such billing problems are unusual, but not unheard of, with subscription-based online services. Some consumer groups worry that they can discourage e-commerce. But others point out the same billing problems occur in the "brick-and-mortar" world.

Both Microsoft Network and America Online received attention for massive billing problems involving their customers in 1996.