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FreeEdgar not so free anymore

The company, which offers free access to financial data, tells customers to either pare down the information they're getting or start paying a fee.

    FreeEdgar is telling some customers of its free e-mail service that they either have to pare down the information they're getting or start paying a fee.

    The Web service, which is the sister site of Edgar Online, offers consumers free access to financial data as it is released to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    FreeEdgar said Wednesday that its free Watchlist service, which notifies customers via e-mail of SEC filings by particular companies, will only remain free for customers tracking fewer than five companies. Customers tracking more companies were asked to subscribe to Edgar Online's Premier service at a monthly cost of $9.95.

    Customers can still look up information for free on the site, noted Senior Vice President Jay Sears.

    FreeEdgar is the latest "free" site that has decided to charge for some or all services. In recent months, Internet-based phone company Phonefree.com started charging for its service, and a slew of ISPs offering free services began instituting fees.

    Last month, Yahoo announced it would start charging for its auction services, with fees ranging from 20 cents to $2.25, depending on the value of the item being sold. The decision follows a change in strategy by the company to start charging customers for "premium services" offered on the Web portal.

    Analysts say the move to start charging for previously free services comes as more and more Web companies look to make money during the current economic downturn.

    All existing Watchlist accounts on FreeEdgar have been moved to Edgar online and will be activated once the customer subscribes to the Edgar Online site, the company said in an alert to customers.

    "There are around 100,000 users of the service," Sears said. "We found that many of them work at banks and law firms and use it for commercial reasons," so the company is hoping consumers may be willing to pay for the service.

    If customers don't upgrade, their Watchlist service will be disabled Friday.