You have… Certified email?

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February 6, 2006 &# 151; — “You have mail”, and now you may have “certified” mail. AOL and Yahoo users will soon see it in their inbox — a certified email sent, for a price, with a stamp of approval.

The internet (and email) giants have teamed up with Goodmail Systems, which will charge companies around ¼ cent to send a message that will bypass spam filters. Non-profit organizations are expected to pay less.

“This is an optional service,” said Richard Gingras, CEO of Goodmail Systems. “At this time, it is open to messages from businesses to their existing customers.”

In a world of internet scams, phishing and viruses, Gingras says there is a need for companies to assure consumers that emails are genuine. He also pointed out that companies will still be able to send emails, but they will have to run the spam filters gauntlet.

But some email service providers complain that “certified mail” is nothing more than an email tax.

“AOL and Yahoo, and AOL in particular, stand to gain from this deal,” said Matt Blumberg, CEO of email consultancy Return Path. Blumberg, whose company helps companies such as eBay and American Express reach their customers via email, says “there are uses for certification but not for solving spam.”

AOL spokeswoman Lisa Gibby said the company will receive additional payments from the premium service, but all profits will be “reinvested into our anti-spam efforts.”

Within the next 30 to 60 days, AOL and Yahoo users will start seeing certified emails, which will be marked by an envelope with a blue ribbon draped over it.

So far, The New York Times and the American Red Cross have signed up for the service. Gingras says the email certification will be used for “transactions between businesses and existing customers, not sales.” Emails sent with the “certified” stamp will cover things like order and itinerary confirmations, monthly statements and newsletters the customer has signed up for.

As part of its service, Goodmail will authenticate the business, assess the length of time the business has been in business, review its past business practices, and ensure that it follows proper email sending protocols. .

But Blumberg said people don’t really need email certification if advertisers are doing their job properly. The rules for email advertising are simple, he said: “Send information to people who ask for it; send consumers what they want; and don’t overdo it.”

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