Schoolboy boss denies AOL crisis

Daniel Percy, 15-year-old Surrey schoolboy and acting managing director of AOL’s UK operation, has shrugged off suggestions that a wave of lawsuits and backlash among US customers which dominate AOL’s 8 million subscriber base will affect marketing and customer service plans in Britain.

Percy, now back at school after taking the helm at AOL UK last week, was left to handle press enquiries after AOL American bosses were forced to admit misjudging demand and appeal to disgruntled customers to cut down on attempts to connect to AOL at peak time.

Percy, standing in for AOL managing director Jonathan Bulkeley, told Marketing Week: “The US problems should not affect UK users a great deal.”

AOL is now threatened with large numbers of class actions by US subscribers seeking to sue the world’s biggest online service provider because of the company’s failure to cope with demand following a move to a flat-rate, unlimited access pricing model in December.

The move to the more competitive pricing system has led to an explosion of lengthy online sessions.

And while AOL’s claim to be the world’s biggest online service provider might still stand, it’s claim to be “the world’s most popular Internet online service” is now distinctly under siege.

AOL has responded to the problems with a tactical suspension of much of its US marketing activity, including TV advertising and distribution of free trial disks.

But AOL UK, a joint venture with German media giant Bertelsmann, insists that AOL’s aggressive marketing plans in the UK will proceed as planned.

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