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| Posted At 20:26:25 07/22/2001
AOL Users Told They Won Contest
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) - Dozens - and possibly hundreds - of AOL
users were mistakenly told they had won up to $10,000, prompting a state
``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 is too early to say what, if any,
action the agency could take.
A computer glitch generated the false messages, Dulles, Va.-based
America Online said.
False winners saw their computer screens freeze immediately after the
prize message, while true winners saw a verification screen, the company
AOL will 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 on 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 on 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
She called again a few days later and was again assured that she had
won, she said.
On her third call, she was told that there was a computer glitch and that
instead of $10,000, she would 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 users will be entered in a separate drawing for a
single $10,000 prize, along with receiving 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
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 is unclear if the act would apply to AOL's game.
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