Online giant America Online (AOL) found itself in legal trouble this week when a class action lawsuit was filed against the company alleging that its new software is crippling rival Internet accounts. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 8 million AOL customers, claims that the AOL version 5.0 software interferes with existing connections for rival Internet access providers. Not coincidentally, 8 million of AOL's 21 million subscribers have upgraded to AOL 5.0.
At question here is a dialog box during installation of AOL 5.0 that asks the user whether they would like AOL to become their default Internet browser. If the user chooses yes, AOL takes over most of the system's Web-related functions. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that compete with AOL say that this feature can cause their services to function incorrectly or not work at all. AOL says the suit is groundless.
"The \[AOL\] 5.0 software provides users with the ability to select AOL as their default Internet connection, but only if they make the choice to do so," says AOL spokesperson Rich D'Amato. "It's designed to provide a more stable online environment, but it doesn't prevent users from accessing the Internet through another provider."
Lawyers who filed the case have asked the judge to consider anyone that upgraded to AOL 5.0 to be part of the class represented by the suit