Those Free AOL Minutes Don't Help When You Rack Up $3,400 In Long Distance

from the oops dept

A New Hampshire resident was upset that his AOL dialup kept kicking him offline, so he ran AOL’s AutoFix program, which he said fixed the problem. He also says that the program (without him realizing it) changed the dialup phone number to a long distance toll number – something he only realized when a $3,400 phone bill arrived. AOL claims that it’s not their problem, saying that the AutoFix program doesn’t change the phone number, so that couldn’t be the problem. However, now the New Hampshire Attorney General is stepping in to ask AOL to go to mediation to settle this issue – even though the actual bill is due to Verizon. It sounds like more details are needed, but now that the press is covering the story in a way that makes AOL look bad, expect them to change their tune and play nice.

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Comments on “Those Free AOL Minutes Don't Help When You Rack Up $3,400 In Long Distance”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

24/7 for that long?

Do dial-up users really log into the internet and leave their PC connected for THAT long?

If so, why not go ahead and get a 24/7 broadband connection?

Surely they must have had a second phone line in order to use it that heavily and in most parts of the country a second phone line + AOL (or most other dial up services) is equal to the lower tier of broadband pricing…

I feel sorry for the people involved, and without a full code review of AOL’s auto-fix software it seems unlikely anyone will know for sure what happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 24/7 for that long?

I agree with OWJ – the first thing I thought was: with that big a long distance bill, he must be on line a LOT.

In the end AOL will end up paying the phone bill since it’s cheaper from a market/brand stanpoint than getting bad press, even if it isn’t their fault (which is my guess).

jayrtfm says:

Re: 24/7 for that long?

Yup, I’m one who used to leave the dialup on 14+ hours a day, and currently 8+ hours. And I have only a single phone line.
Despite living in Manhatten, my building can’t get DSL. Due to underemployment, I can’t afford cable.
I have a “foward on busy” set to transfer calls to my cell phone.
One of my main reasons for being connected so much is that I listen to archived radio shows (NPR, CBC, etc) online, and go to sleep with it on.

AMetamorphosis says:

Re: Re: 24/7

When my office initially used dial up I left our Aohell account up 24/7. We had a line installed just for internet access and it was just more convenient then dialing in several times a day to check email.

Many people leave their dial up connections running for hours on end for a variety of reasons.

Aohell advertises unlimited access and I throughly took advantage of that …

Lisa Barker says:

AOL AutoFix selects toll number for access!!

On 7/27/04 we ran AOL AutoFix (AOL 9.0) to resolve our difficulty connecting to the internet. A month later we received our phone bill; toll calls for internet hookup had been assessed. Our local telephone company indicated they had received numerous complaints similar to ours and could not assist us with the charges; they advised us to contact AOL. AOL insisted only the member can change the access number and we needed to contact our local telephone company. I reiterated that no one here changed the access number to a toll number and was finally given a fax number to send the phone bill to. To verify that AOL AutoFix did in fact add a toll number, I again ran the AOL AutoFix program in the presence of our office assistant. When prompted to select an access number I chose only one number; I was prompted to select at least two access numbers but did not. After the AOL AutoFix program was completed, I restarted the computer and went to the sign-up screen to check access numbers. On that date, 09/01/04, AOL AutoFix did, in fact, add another access number to my Home location and the AutoFix location. The number added was a toll number. I faxed a request for refund to AOL and explained the situation. On 09/17/04 I received a form letter in which AOL repeats their TOS and stresses that only the member can change access numbers and AOL will not compensate for the toll calls. They also advised I contact my local telephone company. I ran AutoFix today and this time only the single access number I selected was added. It appears AOL AutoFix had some problems that have since been cleared up. Any direction regarding resolving this issue would be appreciated!

Ha HAAA says:

Re: AOL AutoFix selects toll number for access!!

LMAO – you guys are too funny. The AOL autofixes are now, and have always been dependant on the customer choosing the access number. la la la – it added it once, but it doesn’t now – you guys need to call attornies and expalin you are having PEBKAC problems with your computer 😉

Jill Tokay says:

Re: Re: Re: AOL AutoFix selects toll number for access!!

Hi Mara! I got the same thing! My auto-fix when then all the AOL numbers were busy, perhaps, they did’t set up enough numbers for increasing volumes of people using their service, but I had trouble getting on, and used AUTO-FIX! Well, they sure AUTOFIXED for me! I got a phone bill for: $4528.23!!!!!!!! My phone bill is usually $40 – $50…don’t have long distance and live alone…a Class Action law suit is in order. I complained to Eliot Sptizer via website, and I see that their are tons of people who all of a sudden have this problem! With the auto-fix…write me…My name is Jill Tokay and let’s see if we can get a Class Action Lawsuit going…if enough people complain, a lawyer would be more than happy to take the case, they love Class-Action Suits, they make a mint! Enjoy your day and feel free to contact me! Thanks, Jill

Jill Tokay says:

Re: Re: AOL AutoFix selects toll number for access!!

Dear writer, NO! The auto-fix does NOT say anything about, you having to be involved in the AUT0-FIX! It chose all toll numbers, because AOL nyst not hve enough room for their toll free numbers to accept the volume that comes through! This should be a Class Action Lawsuit, of which attorney’s love…they make tons of money! TONS! They would love it! Also, the people harmed get a lot of money!!!Please, writer contact me at…my name is Jill Tokay, and I am writing many many people to come together and get a Class Action Lawsuit..I wrote to Elliot Spitzer, Attorney General of NYS via website….Please contact me, Have a great day…Regards, Jill at

Jill Tokay says:

Re: AOL AutoFix selects toll number for access!!

Hi Lisa! I just had the same experience. I received a phone bill for $4,528.23, when my phone bill is usually $40-$50!!!! i don’t have long distance. I live alone and make $10/hr. The bill is not the fault of the phone company…I couldn’t imagine where this came from! I, finally found out! AUTO-FIX selected numbers with tolls, when all their non-toll numbers were busy, and you could not get on. It was done through AUTO-FIX fow hcih you do not have to do a thing for this AUTO-FIX proces to work…they screwed up their software…I have AOL 9.0….I contacted Elliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of NYS via internet. Lawyer will be VERY INTERESTED n a Class Action Lawsuit! they seek these out, because they make tons of money! And we will get money also! This is the responsbibility and accountability of AOL. If we get enough people together , a lawyer would love the case! Pleas respond to me if you are interested in scattering this information around the internet, of which there are soooo many, thouands with the same problem…the AUTO-FIX! Regards and write me at …Have a great day and I look forward to hearing from you…with a class action suit, we shall get money also! My best, Jill

Anna says:

AOL auto fix added long distance #s

I just got a bill for over $800 from the phone company. AOL’s auto fix added them to my dialup and I didn’t know it. They claim their program won’t add anything without my ok. The first number on the “Added by Auto Fix 4” is local but they backed it up with 5 long distance numbers. I know what areas are long distance for me. I am not stupid. I did not add these numbers. Auto is short for Automatic, which means that it is done without your input (otherwise it would be Manual).
If there are others out there with this problem (which I am sure there are), we should get together and stop AOL from doing this to people.

Mara says:

Re: AOL auto fix added long distance #s

Oh, I hope somebody reads this.

I had the same thing happen with autofix. it added a 1 + area code to my LOCAL access number, thereby making the call long distance. I received my phone bill, yesterday, for 1559.61 cents. AOL says their program could not have changed the access number. It did!

I don’t know what I’m going to do. Perhaps a class action law suit is in order.

Jill Tokay says:

Re: Re: Re: AOL auto fix added long distance #s

Yes! I just received a phone bill for $4,528.23! My phone bill is usually *$40 – $50…I don’t have long distance and have had this amount on my phone bills for YEARS! It is ot the phone companies fault, of which mine is AT&T, It is AOL, and their autofix, when numbers are busy…they select toll numbers! I cannot pay over $4500.00 for a phone bill because AOL screwed it up with their auto fix…the number s were so busy you couldn’t get on and they say “Fix for me!’ WELL THEY SURE DID! $4528,23 worht of auto-fix in their AOL 9,0 version with their spy for adware stuff, which doesn’t even do the job. The thing…”auto-fix” that gave everyone these amazing out of sight phone bills deserves a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT! Corrrespond with me if you want to talk more…at…My name is Jill Tokay I live in Stony Brook Long Island NY…we nust get everyone together who has this problem with the auto-fix and have a class-action lawsuit of which Lawyers love class action suits! They make a mint!!!!!!!! Thanks get back to me if you want to talk more…I can’t pay this! I make $10/hr, live alone, no money comng in from alimony or anywhere! I have no savings and am between jobs as it is, with no income…contact me…We must get other people involved in this! Thanks and enjoy your day! Best Regards, Jill Tokay

Jill Tokay says:

Re: Re: Re: AOL auto fix added long distance #s

Hi Erica! I just got a phone bill for $4528.23!!!! My usual phone bill is $40 – $50. I live alone, and use my phone line for my computer mostly. This just happened to me and to you.. WEW MUST GET A CLASS ACTION SUIT TOGETHER! I Have written other people with the same problem that comes with the “Auto-fix” AOL has installed, that selects “tool #’s! AOL has not programmed their autofix correctly and they are accountable…Please, Erica, I make $10/hr, live alone, and live cheap…contact me, Jill Tokay at and let’s see if we can get a lawyer involved…as Class Action Lawsuits are a Lawyers dream! They get tons of money from winning! They WILL be interested if enough people complain….write me Erica, at My name is Jill Tokay and have had AOL for over 10 yers and never had this problem! Their phone #’s got too busy, so the auto-fix selected toll numbers…autofix does NOT give you the option to check for toll numbers! It is supposed to be some modern AOL 9.0 version that is so updatd an modern…Contact me…thanks and enjoy your day! Regards, Jill ( I already reported this to Albany, and Elliot Spitzer!)

Jill Tokay says:

Re: AOL auto fix added long distance #s

Hi Anna! I just got a phone bill for $4,528.23!!!! My phone bill is usually $40 – $50…I don’t have long distance live alone and make $10/hr. This occurred because of the AOL auto fix that they have installed in their 9.0. It fixes it alright! When all the lines are busy and you select “Fis it for me” it chooses any number..including the TOLL NUMBERS! Their centers for access #’s, when they are all busy, includes this thing called “Auto-fix”…you do not have to do a thing with it! So it selected Toll calls…write me so maybe we can get a class action suist going…I already contacted Elliot Spiter, the New York attorney general, via website….write me! We can get many lawyers interested, because they LOVE Class Action suits, they make TONS OF MONEY!!!!!! Contact me…Jill Tokay at…we must get a class action suit together! Regards Anna, and I look forward to hearing from you…Have a great day!


Calvin Winey says:

autofix fraud

the problem still exists. I came home last night to a $1000 phone bill. After a little research, I found that the problem again is the AOL autofix program that, unknown to myself, inserted long distance phone numbers into my dial-up list.

Of course AOL support were adament that I did it, but the entries are clearly marked “added by autofix 1”. This policy is wrong, wrong wrong. The proceedure for the consumer to call up the autofix program is not simple…. this didn’t happen by accident, nor was it initiated by the child who was using the computer at the time. Its more insidious than that….apparently on detecting a connection error, AOL pops up the autofix window which recommends a new access number…. all a trusting, unknowing child had to do is say ok.

don’t know where we are going with this one…. court seems likely

J. Hansen says:

See #24

I received a bill from Qwest Communications for almost $2000.00 for the month of April. It was due to AOL 9.0 using Auto Fix choosing my access numbers. It chose a long distance number. Yes, I have dial up due to the fact that I live in the rural country so I do not have the “luxury” of DSL. I have spent many, many hours with regards to this problem as I do not feel I am responsible for this bill. I have written to the State Attorney, the FCC and the Utilities Board for my State. Finally, today, thru AOL’s “Live Billing”, they gave me fax number to fax the phone bill that I am having problems with. The number is 703-433-7285. Fax your phone bill in question, your first & last name, your phone number, your screen name, and zip code on a cover sheet.

I will let you know how my problem gets resolved.

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