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America Online Settles Lawsuit

By From Staff And Wire Reports

America Online Inc. will provide subscribers with an hour of free connection time to settle lawsuits that accused it of misleading billing practices, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Friday.

The settlement will end 11 class-action lawsuits brought in California over America Online’s obscure practice of rounding up per-minute access charges.

The biggest on-line company also will plainly disclose its billing practices when people sign up for its on-line service, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Judge James Robertson II of the San Francisco Superior Court gave preliminary approval to the settlement, the attorneys said. The settlement is subject to final court approval after a public hearing.

The settlement could cost America Online $6 million. It applies to people who were subscribers between July 15, 1991, and March 31, 1996.

All will get one hour of free online time. Those who spent more than $300 on America Online connections during that period will get another free hour for each $300 in charges.

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