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MSN has followed in the footsteps of Yahoo! and Lycos following its decision to start charging for its Hotmail POP Mail Retrieval service.

Punters were told of the introduction of the charge - which will be introduced from July 16 - in an email.

It said: "We are sorry to inform you that as of July 16, 2002, we will no longer be able to offer POP Mail Retrieval to our Hotmail users with a standard free account. This means that you will not be able to aggregate e-mail from various accounts into a single Hotmail account."

However, punters will be able to continue to use the POP service if they sign up for MSN's Extra Storage, which costs £19.99 a year.

Of course, that's in the UK. Reports from the US claim that users over there will be able to sign up to the MSN Extra Storage for $19.95 a year.

In a statement MSN said it had introduced the charge in line with its policy of "ensuring MSN Hotmail's active users receive the best possible experience".

Nice to know it has nothing to do with revenue generation.

On the issue of pricing MSN said: "The price for Hotmail Extra Storage in the UK was part of a single European launch commencing on Feb 19th and the price was set the same across all European countries.

"The European price includes tax (VAT in the UK), while the US figure ($19.99) does not include tax," it said.

Earlier this year Yahoo! and Lycos announced they would start charging for their POP email services, which some claim is further evidence of the end of "free" stuff on the Net. ®

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