I pay for AOL service, which includes an e-mail account. This morning, I e-mailed someone and copied myself. When I opened up my copy, I was shocked to see an ad for AOL services at the bottom.
AOL's technical support representative told me that both paying and nonpaying customers will receive this "customer benefit" for a minimum of three weeks and maybe indefinitely. I can't send business-related e-mail messages with an ad at the bottom!
Even worse, AOL provided no notice about the new policy; a sender who didn't check a copy would have no way of knowing that the ad had been attached. This is outrageous.
Don Silver, Los Angeles
On Your Side responds: Sure enough, Silver's e-mail had the AOL "customer benefit" at the bottom. When we asked, AOL confirmed that it had included the advertisement in all AOL Web Mail for the past 6 to 8 months: "It is a reminder to all of our users that AOL offers a variety of free services, including free e-mail. There is no opt-out plan."
You don't have to put up with the AOL ads. Many services offer e-mail accounts with better features than AOL's. We like Yahoo's beta mail service; while the free version also puts an ad in messages, a $20-per-year premium account makes it disappear. Check out our comparison chart of Web mail services.