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The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it has settled charges of deceptive advertising against Gateway and Juno that pertained to the two companies’ Internet access services. The FTC says the companies advertised offers for free services but didn’t clearly disclose details about fees and cancellation terms. As part of the settlement, the two companies have agreed to reimburse some customers for costs, such as long-distance telephone charges, that were unwittingly incurred, according to the FTC. “Free Internet access often turned out to be too good to be true for many consumers, a fact made clear by a significant volume of complaints by consumers,” Jodie Bernstein, director of the commission’s bureau of consumer protection, said in a statement. “[Tuesday's] agreement will help make sure more consumers don’t get taken for a ride on the Internet highway when it comes to the true cost of Internet access.” Among the FTC’s charges were accusations that Juno did not tell users who signed up for a trial offer for its Premium Internet service that they had to use 150 free hours of service within a month’s time and that cancellations were handled through a single, unpublished telephone number. The FTC also alleged that Gateway customers were charged $3.95 per hour to use Gateway’s ostensibly toll-free number for accessing the company’s Gateway.net service. “We believe that our policies and practices have always been comparable to our major competitors,” said Juno spokesman Gary Baker. “Our current practices in the areas of disclosure and customer service are definitely a level above the industry norm.” Gateway spokeswoman Donna Kather said that the FTC’s action regarding Gateway is related to events that are two years old and that Gateway has taken steps to remedy the problem. “We’ve already reached out and refunded a good portion of those customers,” Kather said. “We’re continuing our efforts to satisfy those customers who may have had issues with their Internet service in 1999.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Fed Cuts Rates by 50 Basis Points Commerce Department Has ‘Concerns’ About Revised VeriSign Pact Shadowing AOL Time Warner Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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