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CLASS-ACTION SUIT FILED AGAINST AOL.

Byline: P.J. Huffstutter Daily News Staff Writer

A Los Angeles law firm filed a $100 million class-action lawsuit against America Online, the latest in a string of suits filed against the country's most populous Internet provider.

Bruce Fishelman, of Standbury & Fishelman Inc., said his law firm filed the suit because AOL violated federal racketeering laws, falsely advertised, violated customers' privacy and falsely claimed rights to information customers published on the Internet via AOL.

The suit was submitted late Thursday.

AOL has been besieged by complaints and lawsuits since it unveiled its flat-rate fee in December. Subscribers have complained that AOL has been inaccessible because the company signed up more members than its hardware could handle.

``America Online knew, or it should have known, this would happen when they went to a flat rate,'' said plaintiffs' co-counsel Alec B. Wisner at a Friday morning news conference at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. ``Their key people cashed out most of their stock right before the negative press hit last May. They continued to distribute their software by disk through the mail and distribute it on line. And still, they did advertise `unlimited access' and did nothing.''

The suit also charges that the country's largest on-line service provider should not require new subscribers to give up the rights to whatever they publish on AOL or the Internet. This practice is deceptive, Fishelman said, because most subscribers don't read all of the subscription agreements.

AOL insists the case has no basis. Company representatives declined to comment on the suit's specific allegations.

``In all my years of corporate experience, I have never seen such ridiculous piling on,'' said George Vradenburg, general counsel for America Online Inc., in a prepared statement. ``When the law changes and plaintiffs have to pay for frivolous lawsuits, suits like this won't be filed any more. This case is completely without merit.''
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 15, 1997
Words:311
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