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AOL Sued on Ads Put in Emails

LOS ANGELES (CN) - AOL inserted ads at the end of more than 100 million emails without subscribers' permission, and won't allow them to cancel the unwanted advertising on their private emails, a class action claims in Federal Court.

The class claims AOL has done this since March 2006.

Named plaintiff Frank Cecchini sued AOL on behalf of its 2 million customers who pay for email - about 20% of AOL's total subscribership, he says.

Cecchini says AOL defrauds customers by inserting the email ads without informing them, without their permission, and without letting them cancel. He says AOL thereby unjustly enriches itself and competes unfairly.

He says paid subscribers expect and should be able to send emails without ads being inserted into them. He says they pay for this service - unlike users of free services, such as hotmail and Yahoo, which also insert the "footer" ads.

"These advertisements are annoying, confusing, intrusive and misleading," the complaint states. He says that's why he pays for AOL email service, instead of using a free service. He says AOL began inserting the ads for its business partners around March 1, 2006, without telling its paid customers it was doing so.

Cecchini demands punitive damages. He is represented by Christopher Hamner.

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