When it comes to character deletions, just about every MMO out there has a clause in their Terms of Service that indicates they have the right to delete your characters at any time and for no reason whatsoever. With that said, there are very few companies that choose to exercise that right.
Up until now it has been Square Enix as part of Final Fantasy XI (even then they occasionally restore characters as part of 'welcome back' promotions), and Alganon's new "trial" which allows you to play for 30 days free before they wipe your character if you don't subscribe. However, as you can see from the above image, Funcom has opted to join the ranks of "will delete characters" in regards to Age of Conan.
When contacted for comment about whether or not this was true, Erling Ellingsen, Director of Communications for Funcom said, "Yes, that's correct. It's a database clean-up. We're going through all accounts that's (sic) been inactive for a long period of time, deleting characters under level 20 to free space in the database."
The first 20 levels, often considered by many to be Age of Conan's tutorial levels, are primarily spent leveling through a single-player adventure with some multi-player aspects in the city of Tortage. The fact that you have to level past this solo-heavy content when you start a character gets a little old for players who just want to play with friends. As Funcom are now choosing to delete the 1-20 characters of inactive players -- potentially nuking inactive bank alts in the process -- it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out as a long-term strategy. Will it bring back inactive players, afraid of losing a bevy of below-20's? Or has Funcom just alienated people who were planning to come back, but now don't want to take the chance that their characters will potentially become clean-up fodder down the road? Time will tell.