Plan to charge businesses for e-mail triggers outcry
Report: Marketers say AOL's effort to certify messages and reduce spam amounts to e-mail taxation.

NEW YORK ( - America Online's plan to start charging businesses to send commercial e-mail messages is creating an uproar among some marketers, a newspaper reported Monday.

Some marketers argue AOL's plan to implement a certified e-mail system, which could charge advertisers $2 to $3 per 1,000 messages, is a form of e-mail taxation, USA Today said.

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Last October, AOL and Yahoo! both agreed to deploy a certified e-mail system designed by technology firm Goodmail Systems.

AOL is testing the program and plans to implement it within the next month or two, AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham told

Yahoo! (Research), which said when it signed up with Goodmail that it would work with the company to certify messages containing bank statements, receipts and other "transactional" messages, is also expected to implement the system in coming months.

The certified e-mail system is designed to ensure users that messages arriving in their inbox are from a legitimate sender. Each message sent through Goodmail is embedded with a security token that must be detected before the message can be delivered to a user's inbox and identified as certified mail.

Goodmail negotiates the market rate it charges commercial e-mailers based on the volume of messages to be sent, and AOL receives a share of that revenue, according to AOL's Graham.

But some marketers say the system is merely designed to generate a new revenue stream for AOL, the Internet division of Time Warner. ( is also a unit of Time Warner Inc.)

"It's taxation of the good guys with cash, and it does nothing to help the good guys who can't afford the cost or to deter the bad guys who spam anyway," Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, an e-mail services company, was quoted as saying in USA Today.

Graham dismissed those claims as "competitive chatter" and said that any revenue generated from the certified e-mail system is "modest" and will be used to beef up the company's anti-spam efforts.

"This is an optional system, it's purely voluntary," he told "The program benefits consumers as well as e-mailers."


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