America Online and Yahoo, two of the world's largest providers of e-mail accounts, plan to start charging an optional fee to send e-mails directly into user inboxes without going through junk mail filters, a media report said in New York.
Users will now have to pay from a quarter of a cent to 1 cent per e-mail to ensure their messages are marked as certified and grab the attention of the receiver.
"The Internet companies say this will help them identify legitimate mail and cut down on junk e-mail, identity-theft scams and other scourges that plague users of their services," the New York Times reported on Sunday.
The companies also stand to earn millions of dollars a year from the system if it is widely adopted, the daily said.
In the next two months, AOL will start accepting e-mail processed by the US-based Goodmail Systems, which will collect the electronic postage and verify the identity of the sender.
Unpaid e-mails will be subject to AOL's spam filtering process, which diverts suspicious messages to a spam folder.
Meanwhile, Yahoo has said it will start trying out Goodmail's system in the coming months but has not yet decided how paid e-mail will be differentiated from unpaid.
"In a broader sense, the move to create what is essentially a preferred class of e-mail is a major change in the economics of the Internet. Until now, senders and recipients of e-mail...each covered their own costs of using the network, with no money changing hands," the daily said.