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Broadband blarney from AOL

"Over enthusiastic" operator promises fake features to tempt cancelling customers

There's something special about AOL's broadband offering, or so one of its operators in the Ireland-based cancellations department would have us believe.

We called the AOL cancellations department on 0800 279 7444, to follow up a story we were writing about the ISP's broadband pricing. A reader had been offered AOL broadband for £19.99 a month rather than the advertised £27.99 when he phoned to cancel his dialup account.

Sadly it turns out this great deal isn't available to everyone. AOL's Jonathan Lambert said that the company often tests price plans on a limited basis to find out what the reaction of the market might be to a change. Clearly our reader just got lucky.

But while the cancellations operator we spoke to couldn't match the £19.99 deal, he did claim AOL broadband had some really outstanding features that set it apart from other broadband suppliers — most notably NTL.

He told us, "AOL is the fastest broadband supplier" and offered upload speeds of a massive 532Kbps — and there was us thinking that the top speed for uploading data via ADSL was 256Kbps, no matter who your supplier is.

Not only does AOL have these amazing upload speeds to tempt customers, apparently it also has better security than rivals, including NTL and Telewest. According to our helpful cancellations operator, it does this by offering a "secure line", unlike the "shared line connections" used by competitors.

Lambert says that perhaps the operator meant to say that AOL offers a more secure service, thanks to features like parental controls and antivirus. But clearly this was not the message conveyed to us, and he agreed that it wasn't correct to say that AOL offered a more secure line than other operators.

The claims made to us were "not typical", says Lambert, adding that as he had helped to write some of the scripts for the telephone operators, he was sure such information was "not given out in general to customers". He also said that the company had recently taken on several new members on the customer service team, and that the operator was "just a little over enthusiastic, rather than deliberately misleading".

All AOL customer service operators are now to be briefed again to ensure that in the future all the information they give out is accurate.

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