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AOL expands refund policy

AOL settles a class-action suit that effectively doubles the refunds for members locked out of the service.

A class action lawsuit settlement reached today doubles the amount of refund money America Online (AOL) customers can get in to compensate for being locked out of the service.

Today's settlement comes two months after AOL agreed to give refunds to members who were prevented from using the service by nearly constant busy signals. The original deal was reached with the attorneys general from nearly every state.

In that settlement, AOL agreed to refund members up to two months of service fees for December and January. Today's settlement extends those refunds for two more months, February and March.

Today's settlement closes the case of Schwab v America Online in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ilinois, the first of a series of class action suits.

Under the terms of today's settlement, members who were online between 2 and 15 hours in February and March and had trouble connecting will be able to get refunds if they submit a written request. The agreement also provides a free month of service to members who spent more than 15 hours online if they had trouble getting online in either February or March.

More information about how members covered by this class-action suit can get their refunds will be posted on the site within two weeks, according to AOL spokeswoman Wendy Goldberg.

"This settlement allows us to close this chapter and put this issue behind us," said Goldberg.

The issue may not in fact be over, however; several other class action suits are still pending.

Most of the suits contend the same thing: that AOL members should be given refunds for service that they never received. AOL dial-up lines became overcrowded when AOL began offering unlimited access for one monthly price.

Goldberg said that the additional refunds would be covered under the $24 million in charges AOL took during its last quarter.