Left side advert image
Right side advert image
Super banner advert image
Subscribe to Print Monthly's RSS feed

Enter your email address here to sign up for our weekly newsletter

Paper

The true cost of charging for paper bills

Almost all major telecoms companies now charge customers up to £3 a month for paper copies of their bills.

Article picture

Telecoms companies have been charging people for paper bills for years, but the amount continues to increase

BT now charges customers £3 a month if they wish to receive paper bills, charging more than any other telecoms firm.

Judith Donovan CBE chairs the Keep Me Posted campaign which aims to ensure that customers are given a fair choice about how they wish to receive their bills and statements from major suppliers.

“For a section of the population, they can’t go online either because they can’t afford it or they’ve got a disability, or they live in the middle of nowhere,” says Donovan. “There are a lot of people online that use [the internet] for Googling things, but they don’t want to look at their bills and statements online because they want to have the hard copies that they can look at it properly.”

It’s not just older people this type of policy affects, Donovan says that those with disabilities are being unfairly treated as well as younger people who are increasingly needing copies of utility bills in order to rent properties. “If you print that document at home yourself, it is not a legal document. So, by the time you’ve got the document from the company, the property has been let to someone else.” 

It’s grossly overpriced from companies that charge people to do that, but it’s doubly unfair on the amount they’re charging

New studies have emerged recently that suggest that people retain and comprehend information better if they are reading it from a piece of paper, rather than on a screen. Donovan says its particularly important for people on low incomes who are juggling their finances to understand their bills and if having paper bills helps them comprehend it, it ought to be in the big companies’ interests to help them do so.

Companies began charging for paper billing around six or seven years ago and as a result, the campaign was born. Donovan also says that the cost companies are charging for paper bills does not reflect the true cost of printing and posting that bill. Where companies are charging up to £3 per bill, Donovan argues that the actual cost is closer to 30p to 45p to print and send statements.

So, are companies looking to make money from paper billing? “I think they are,” argues Donovan. “It’s grossly overpriced from companies that charge people to do that, but it’s doubly unfair on the amount they’re charging which bears no relationship to the amount it’s actually costing.”

Donovan comments: “Most companies are arguing that [the charge] is to give a better service to all their customers, by not having to incur ‘unnecessary’ paper costs, as they see it.” The work of Two Sides in its greenwashing campaign has seen great success with companies no longer using anti-paper messaging in their communications, but the charge on paper bills remains.

I think it’s cultural with telecoms companies, because they all live digital lives, they can’t believe that not everybody does

There is a view amongst the general public that print and paper is bad for the environment, which Two Sides, with the help of those in the industry, is trying to tackle with its Anti-Greenwash campaign. 

The Keep Me Posted campaign does two things to fight for consumer rights when it comes to paper bills, firstly by signing up supporters – there are over 130 charities, trade associations and trade unions which support the movement, including The Printing Charity, the British Coatings Federation and Royal Mail.

The second part of the campaign involves awarding best practice marks of distinction to companies which promise not to take away paper billing and promise not to charge for it. “We have 40 of those so far, unsurprisingly not a single one of them is a telecoms company,” says Donovan. 

“Personally, I think it’s cultural with telecoms companies, because they all live digital lives, they can’t believe that not everybody does.”

If you have a news story, email summer@linkpublishing.co.uk or follow us on Twitter to have your say.


Print printer-friendly version Printable version Send to a friend Contact us

No comments found!  

Sign in:

Email 

or create your very own Print Monthly account  to join in with the conversation.


Top Right advert image
Top Right advert image

Poll Vote

Which sector do you see continuing growth in 2019?

Top Right advert image