Posted By Seamus Barton
Why we need to stop pay-to-pay bill fee’s
Here is an interesting article on paper based billing and organizations that bill for them.
By: Ellen Roseman On Your Side, Published on Fri Aug 29 2014 Toronto Star
Billing customers is part of the cost of doing business. So, why are you being asked to pay for the privilege of getting your monthly statements in the mail?
Canada’s telecom service providers started charging for paper bills five years ago. Many banks followed suit.
These companies told customers that electronic billing was a good thing. It was fast, convenient, secure and good for the environment.
They assumed they could get away with charging $1 to $6 a month for mailed bills. They almost succeeded – until they ran into loud opposition by consumers and a federal government facing re-election that was keen to court the consumer vote.
You can’t go ahead with these charges, Industry Minister James Moore told Canada’s telecom providers Friday after they brushed off the CRTC’s attempts to stop pay-to-pay billing.
“Increasingly, many Canadians are being charged this new fee by companies from whom they have been receiving service for decades,” Moore said in a statement. “We do not believe that Canadians should pay more to receive a paper copy of their telephone or wireless bill.”
At an Aug. 28 meeting in Ottawa, almost a dozen telecom companies agreed to make industry-wide exemptions for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and those without Internet access by Jan. 1, 2015.
Two CRTC vice-chairmen said they were “very disappointed” by the refusal to consider the needs of all Canadians. CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais gave a shout-out to the telecom companies that weren’t charging for paper bills (Cogeco Cable, MTS Allstream, SaskTel and Shaw Communications).
“This business decision ensures their customers can make reasonable and informed choices about how they are billed for communications services,” Blais said about the Fab Four. “Canadians should keep this in mind when they select service providers.”
The CRTC probably knew that its attempt to broker a deal was doomed to fail. But it had to go through the exercise as a prelude to legislation banning the practice.
“It’s naïve to think that companies would voluntarily walk away from this kind of money,” said John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), an Ottawa-based consumer group.
One day before the CRTC met with telecom providers, PIAC released a report that estimated how much consumers were paying in paper bill charges for banking and telecom services ($495 million to $735 million a year).
The report included a telephone survey, which showed strong opposition to the practice:
•83 per cent of respondents felt that sending bills in the mail was part of a company’s cost of doing business.
•74 per cent disapproved of charging people extra for a mailed statement.
•71 per cent approved of offering a discount to those who chose electronic billing.
•33 per cent said they were not comfortable using electronic billing.
Billing is an essential part of the contractual relationship between a service provider and consumers, the report said. It’s the means by which a provider affirms its service responsibilities to customers and customers clearly understand their financial obligations to a service provider.
It’s not fair to make most Canadians go online for their monthly bills unless they pay extra to opt out. Weakening the contractual relationship is a backward step that will benefit companies and hurt customers.
As someone who has followed this issue for years – since customers write to me about it – I have my own views on paper bill charges.
One, companies look hypocritical when they claim to be saving trees. They are just shifting costs to a large segment of customers who use their own computers, printers, papers and ink to keep paper copies of bills.
Two, companies boast about reducing the paper load, but still flood people with promotional mail. I left Bell several years ago, but still get letters that go into the recycling bin trying to lure me back.
Three, companies should encourage people to adopt electronic billing with meaningful incentives that are too good to resist. This will cost money in the short run, but will cut expenses in the long term.
One day, your mobile phone may handle all your financial transactions. Change will come to the payment world. But we shouldn’t allow companies to penalize those who feel uncomfortable with online billing – for whatever reason, not just because of age, disability or broadband connections.
Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ellenroseman.com