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Deutsche Post charges same price for electronic, paper letters

Deutsche Post says customers using its secure e-mail service will have to pay the same price per message as they pay to send a conventional letter. Competitors are offering a similar service for a fraction of the price.

Photo montage of an envelope and laptop computer

Consumer can sign up for secure e-mail accounts now

Germany's Deutsche Post has launched a new service that allows private citizens, businesses and government authorities to send official, private communications on the Internet.

"We're making secure written communication on the Internet possible for everyone - this is a revolution," Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post, said of the e-post project on Wednesday.

Titled "E-Postbrief", the service will be a legally binding means of communication. Currently in Germany, legal documents require an original signature, which prevents them from being digitally created or terminated.

The Post said it will charge 55 euros cents ($0.70) for each e-letter it delivers - the same price it charges for regular mail.

The price of eliminating spam

A lock on top of a computer keyboard

Both secure e-mail providers are keeping their systems under lock and key

"The online letter offers the same benefits as a conventional letter, so it makes sense to make it the same price," said Juergen Gerdes, the Deutsche Post board member in charge of mail, adding that e-post users will not have to wade through advertising or other spam messages.

Deutsche Post also hopes that its e-letters will help push up revenues, which have been slipping as private customers and businesses have turned increasingly to e-mail for their correspondence. Operating profits from the Post's letter division are expected to fall from 1.4 billion euros last year to 1.2 billion euros in 2010.

The service is similar to one announced last week by Deutsche Telekom and Web.de and GMX - two e-mail providers owned by United Internet - called De-Mail. Though the organizers have not yet set De-Mail's prices, they will be between 10 euros cents and 20 euros cents, according to GMX spokesman Holger Neumann.

"If you compare it to your regular e-mail it's more expensive," he added. "If you compare to letters, it's pretty cheap."

Similar services, separate accounts

Drawing of an envelope on top of an e-mail inbox screenshot

The new e-mail systems will help people avoid unwanted messages

Users can sign up for both of the services now, but only E-Postbrief is fully operational. De-Mail still requires parliamentary approval, expected to come in the autumn, before it can begin delivering legally binding messages.

Apart from prices and launch dates, E-Postbrief and De-Mail basically offer the same services. Both require customers to prove their identity in person when activating their accounts and will be legally binding forms of communication. Both will print and hand-deliver messages to people who do not use the service, and both will only charge users to send messages while receiving them will be free.

There are not, however, currently plans to integrate E-Postbrief and De-Mail accounts.

Author: Sean Sinico (AP, DPA, AFP)

Editor: Sam Edmonds

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