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Spam fees benefit Yahoo, AOL customers

“You’ve got mail” – three little words that bring happiness to most e-mail users. Yet when that e-mail happens to be spam or junk mail, looking at what’s in the inbox can go from a pleasant experience to a chore.

AOL and Yahoo are looking to lessen this burden for their customers. Clients who send out mass e-mails to users of AOL and Yahoo may have to pay a fee of one-quarter of a penny to a penny per e-mail sent to ensure that the e-mails are going to a desired recipient. According to InformationWeek, companies that pay this fee would be assured that their messages were going to subscribers who wanted them – and that the messages they send would not go through spam filters.

The e-mail providers, which are working with Goodmail Systems on this effort, are doing this to cut down on the amount of spam e-mails sent to their users. Goodmail Systems will be the agency actually implementing the fee.

“Goodmail conducts background checks to make sure that the sender has an accurate physical address and that it sends e-mail only to customers who have an existing customer relationship with the sender,” technology magazine Red Herring said.

Since the fee’s announcement on Monday, there has been confusion over who exactly was to be charged: customers or mass e-mailers. This confusion was understandable given headlines on articles distributed on various news services that stated things such as, “AOL, Yahoo to charge for e-mail.”

The move by AOL and Yahoo seems to be a well-intended one. The e-mail providers want to deliver spam-free – or at least reduced-spam – service to customers. As long as e-mail users are still able to indicate in their inboxes what is good mail and what is junk mail and the so-called “e-stamps” still respect these bounds, the fee should deter those companies that are not financially well off and cannot afford the fees.

The Senate Commerce Committee, however, is concerned that businesses that cannot afford the fee will be left behind and the playing field will become uneven. They believe that some businesses will not be able to afford the e-mail fees and thus will not be able to promote awareness of their company. Yet isn’t this how the world of business works? A company must work its way up and gain preliminary, local customers before it can take on the global marketplace. Worries about businesses that would be left behind in an advertising blitz should not stop AOL and Yahoo from providing a safer and more secure e-mail experience for its users. With the advent of these new fees, there is no reason why the e-mail providers cannot afford it.