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Ernie tackles tough money questions

Accounting firm Ernst & Young began a new service to answer tough financial questions.

Big Six accounting firm Ernst & Young is launching a service called Ernie, which despite its cute name promises to answer complicated business and financial questions over the Web.

Ernie, available for a $6,000 fixed yearly fee, gives subscribers with pressing business questions access to Ernst & Young consultants in 89 offices across the country. Subscribers can send questions on virtually any subject, from taxes and stock options to new technology. Ernie sorts them by category and then routes them through the E&Y intranet to the appropriate consultant. The company guarantees an answer via the subscriber's email account within two business days.

Ernie also offers a news clipping service that delivers customized categories of articles to a user's email account.

To qualify for the service, businesses must show annual revenue between $25 million and $200 million. The company expects Ernie to greatly expand its number of clients beyond its current list of 8,800 customers.