Is paying for email the future of digital communication?

15 March 2013

Earlier this week, it was reported that an American business angel had come up with the solution to spam email. And what was the new answer to sliced bread? Making people pay to send you an email.

Now you might think this is a crazy idea, after all, people already can’t pay essential bills so why try to make them pay for something that is free- you may as well bottle tap water and sell it. The scheme could run at a flat rate of 10p per mail, or perhaps with a graduating scale to charge, say, £5 to every Nigerian prince whose personal fortune just needs to sit in your account for 24 hours. You might also wonder that these comments have been made by a woman who already runs an email inbox service to try and thwart scammers- perhaps scaring people with the thought of paying for email might send them running into the arms of her add-an-annoying-captcha-to-every-email service.

But might she have an ever-so-tiny point? If something is free, is the value of it lost, such that emails become background noise and completely unimportant? It’s like the old joke- in the early 1990s getting an email was an event; today getting a letter in the post would cause more excitement. While paying for email is perhaps ridiculous, unwieldy and difficult to enforce, would attaching a value to electronic messages mean that people would make sure their emails were worth sending (and therefore receiving)?

And would it even stop spammers? Wouldn’t email spammers, much like text spammers, just go underground and abscond without paying their email dues? Some would argue that we already ‘pay’ for emails by allowing people like Google (amongst others) to harvest our personal data and sell it on to advertisers.

At the moment the idea of paying to receive email is a crazy punt that even politicians couldn’t consider economically viable. Still, when digital communications tax is introduced in a few years’ time, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

TOPICS:   Scams


  • Alexis
    Presumably the government would be better taxing the ISPs, who then pass on the costs as they wish and take the flak.
  • klingelton
    it's a good idea, but wouldn't stop the spam. the spammers would find some open SMTP server and channel all their mail to that poor sod, in turn meaning that user would bare the cost. also, we get spam that costs however much a bundle rate is at the royal fail. it must cost Vermin media at least 20 pence per mail shot that I've asked them to stop sending, because as much as i like to know that new customers get to pay 50% less for a better service than i currently receive, i really don't need to get that mail shot. Alas, to no avail!
  • Mongo
    What a great idea, all those people with hacked accounts and machines running in botnets where 99% of spam comes from get almighty bills and the spammers carry on as usual. What an incredible amount of thought went into that suggestion.
  • Justin A.
    There's a confusion with the message in this article. It mentions that the senders will have to pay, and then the recipients. Is it one, the other or both? I can't imagine having to pay to receive spam.
  • Reser
    Was it not Facebook that originally came up with the idea of paying to email someone months and months ago? So basically you are writing an article about some women who stole an idea from Facebook?
  • Damien
    Create filter If body contains 'subscribe' mark as read Save For the illegal spam your email's spam filter usually gets most of it. I find Facebook spam a bigger problem these days.
  • Superfreak
    I read a proposal a few years ago which advocated a system of like one penny or one cent to send an email and it went straight to a charity that you chose.
  • Strawbear
    Monetising the intrawebz. That old chestnut. Murdoch failed spectacularly at it. Facebook are failing at it, even Google are having problems.
  • Zleet
    @ Justin Manchester AfterDark Americans pay for given and recieved calls on mobile networks so not that odd. Could never work on emails unless it offered something above normal email like multi gb file sending and skype/video calls included or even custom bundle addresses so you could have or whatever on family accounts.
  • Truth
    You have got to be FUCKING JOKING It's about all that's left thats free I am going off to hang myself - this world is too fucked up by money grabbing CUNTS
  • Bryan (.
    A few years ago rmt bob Crow suggested this and was laughed at. Yet the yanks suggest it and it's all.... Oooooo what a plausible idea. Bunch of twats. Buy my greatest hits.
  • Spencer
    just a thought.... What if only accepted emails were free? What if, by deleting an unread email, the sender was billed? This would require a pre purchase of credit... Say £1. You then send an email at a cost of 10p... The system 'holds' your 10p... If your sent email is opened and read... your 10p is released and you still have £1 If the email is deleted or marked as spam or unread for, say 30 days the system takes your 10p and donates it to charity. ?

What do you think?

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