NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Cost of Spam

July 29, 2003

Spam is a costly problem. Spammers pay as little as 0.025 cents per e-mail message they send, and it costs about the same for users and Internet providers to process or delete the messages. But with billions of spam e-mails sent each day, catching spammers is becoming more of a priority for big companies.

Analysts disagree as to the exact cost of spam on workers and companies, but all agree it is significant:

  • Estimates of the costs of spam to companies range from $10 billion to $87 billion per year.
  • The average worker receives 13.3 spam messages per day and takes more than six minutes to process and delete them.
  • Corporations will spend $120 million this year on antispam systems.
  • America Online now discards almost 80 percent of the 2.5 billion messages sent each day to addresses at because they have been flagged as spam.

Spam is notoriously difficult for the largest Internet service providers to eliminate. For MCI, the single biggest cost to the company comes from unpaid bills from the spammers it evicts.

"False positives" are another problem related to spam e-mail: Many legitimate e-mail messages are blocked by spam filters. Online auction site eBay says many buyers and sellers haven't been able to contact each other because of false positives.

Source: Saul Hansell, "Totaling Up the Bill for Spam," New York Times, July 28, 2003.


Browse more articles on Government Issues