Investors turning to financial Web sites to track movement of the Dow Jones Industrial Average soon may face increased fees, or may even find that such information is no longer available.
Dow Jones & Co. announced plans to start charging online outlets and financial service providers a fee for its index starting on the first of the year, said Richard Tofel, a company spokesman.
Under the change, Dow Jones will impose a $1-per-month fee for every subscriber accessing real-time quotes from the average, and a 25-cent-per-month charge for delayed quotes. The fees will apply to all companies that are licensed by Dow Jones to use the calculation for its average.
Tofel said the decision to charge these fees arose after Dow Jones determined it should be the sole calculator of the average.
"We became concerned that companies that have a license to distribute the calculation for the average are producing different numbers," Tofel said. "The numbers are not wildly different, but they are different. And with people now trading on this index, it has become a problem."
He added that Dow Jones will incur a cost to move to this model and, as a result, decided to pass that cost along to companies who use its information.
"We're not talking about charging much," Tofel said. "We'll make a little more than what we'll spend to do this, but the point of this is not to charge a lot."
Investors tapping into the sites for free access to delayed quotes, meanwhile, may find that free Dow information is no longer an option, as many financial service providers simply will cease to offer the delayed quotes.
Quote.com chief executive Chris Cooper said that his company currently pays a nominal rate for the license to calculate the average, and that it simply will not make good business sense for Quote.com to absorb extra costs in order to continue providing a free service. He predicted that opting out of delayed information will take a toll on Dow Jones' business.
"Over 90 percent of our users use the delayed feature. This means that Dow Jones won't get nearly the exposure they do now for their index," Cooper said. "Dow Jones has a valuable asset, because it's effectively free, and their name is attached to it."
Cooper added that many real-time subscribers likely will forego using the Dow Jones Industrial Average rather than pay the additional cost.
CBS MarketWatch chief executive Larry Kramer also took issue with Dow's decision to attach a fee to the delayed quotes it delivers to its users free of charge, but said he had not yet decided if the site would change as a result.
"We don't charge for delayed quotes, and don't have a relationship with these users," Kramer said. "We're trying to figure out the fairest way to handle this."