VA: AOL ccomputer glitch offers members $10,000 prize : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

AOL glitch offers members $10,000 prize By: The Associated Press 7/20/01 1:45 PM Source:

SPRINGFIELD, Va.--Dozens--and possibly hundreds--of America Online users were mistakenly told they had won up to $10,000, prompting a state investigation. "We've received three complaints, and we're collecting information," Marion Horsley, a spokeswoman for the state consumer affairs department, said Thursday. She said it's too early to say what, if any, action the agency could take.

A computer glitch generated the false messages, Dulles, Va.-based AOL said.

AOL would not say how many customers were affected by the botched contest, which also was sponsored by Coca-Cola. Kathy Glasgow, 46, said she knows of at least 28 people besides herself.

Glasgow was using her AOL account June 1 when a screen popped up inviting her to play a "Pop-the-Top" contest. She correctly answered a question about a Christina Aguilera song and clicked a soda bottle icon to see if she had won.

The computer showed she would receive $10,000.

"I was very excited," she said. "We called AOL and we were told, 'Yes, you'll be getting your prize affidavit in the mail in five days,'" Glasgow said.

She called again a few days later and was again assured that she had won, she said.

On her third call, she was told there was a computer glitch and that instead of $10,000, she'd get a $200 gift certificate from Target and three free months of AOL.

"If they had told us immediately that we hadn't won, it probably would not have bothered anybody," she said. "But they told us repeatedly that we had won. Now it's a matter of principle."

AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said the company is reviewing the complaints. The affected members will be entered in a separate drawing for a single $10,000 prize, along with the Target gift certificate and AOL time, he said.

"We've already apologized to these customers for any inconvenience and confusion, and we've offered them a goodwill gesture," Weinstein said.

Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson said the company is satisfied with AOL's response.

The Virginia Prizes and Gifts Act makes it illegal for companies to tell people they have won a prize without actually awarding it. But the legislation appears to be directed more toward contests like the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes that are selling products or services as part of the contest. It's unclear if the act would apply to AOL's game.

-- Carl Jenkins (, July 25, 2001

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