Independent MP moves to outlaw fees for paper bills

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Draft laws that propose banning companies from charging customers for providing paper bills and statements were introduced into parliament on Monday.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie introduced the private member’s bill to parliament. The bill will also prevent companies from switching customers to electronic billing without the customer’s consent.

When introducing the bill, Mr Wilkie said that some people simply don’t have the internet, or if they do, it might not be reliable enough to ensure they always get a copy of invoices.

“There has been a worrying trend recently of more and more big companies switching their customers to electronic bills without asking the customer first,” Mr Wilkie said. “To add insult to injury, the customers are now being slugged a fee for getting their bills sent in paper. The fee is often more than what it actually costs the company to send the bill out.

“Yes, electronic bills are convenient for many of us, but a lot of Australians don’t want to or can’t use the internet to manage their finances. There are a lot of older Australians who are unfamiliar with the technology, many on low incomes who can’t afford an internet connection at home, and people in rural areas without reliable coverage. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

“The push to move services online to the detriment of many members of the community has been raised with me on a number of occasions, and I’m pleased to be able to represent these concerns. I’m also grateful to the Keep Me Posted campaign for approaching me about this and congratulate them for their work on this issue.”

Mr Wilkie explained that any attempt to make customers pay for paper bills would disproportionally affect low-income earners and disadvantaged Australians.

“(The bill) simply says that if a company wants to move to electronic statements then it can only do so with the consent of the customer and if the customer does not consent, then that customer will continue to receive paper bills and not be charged,” he said on Monday.

If the legislation is passed, suppliers that don’t comply will face penalties.

Of course, paper bills are not the only charges incurred by those who can’t, or choose not to, manage bills online. As we have featured before, Telstra is just one of many companies that charges customers to pay bills over the counter at retail outlets and AusPost.

Do you support Mr Wilkie’s proposed law changes? Should customers have to pay for receiving a paper bill? Do you regularly manage your bills online? Should customers be charged for paying their bills in person?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 53
  1. 0

    I was switched to electronic billing by Telstra and then charged a late fee. It took me months of phone calls and was only remedied when I went to the communications omnibudsman. I think this again is a move which affects the elderly.

  2. 0

    This has neen implemented by CEO’s to cut costa and gouge the Customer for PROFIT!
    Yes…it should be illegal to charge a customer for a Paper Bill…..with or without their consent!
    Because it is simply a rip-off!
    Most charge $2.
    Imagine if everyone did that?
    $2 added to Tradies bill…
    $2 added to insurance renewal…rego…gas..elec…petrol receipt…tax receipts…accountant bill….Super Statements…Council Rates…
    The List is endless!
    2 Million Customers = 4Million Profit!
    Just straight out ripping the Customer Off!
    To make matters worse…all Companies can and do Claim the Costs as Tax Deductions under expenditure….so it’s Double Dipping!
    And neither Labor or LNP give a crap!
    Only an Independant standing up for us?
    Time to Vote the Parties into Oblivion!
    They have become Corrupt…time to put them Last when you Vote!

  3. 0

    Getting payment for services rendered is a normal business expense, like providing company cars, the executives’ expense accounts, plush business premises or tea and coffee for employees etc. There is no justification to charge an fee for collecting what your paying customers owe in the normal course of business. Maybe Mr Wilke could amend his proposal to make it illegal to refuse to accept cash as payment or to charge a fee for cash payments. Some businesses will not accept cash and then charge fees for using debit or credit cards. If businesses want to sub-contract Australia Post etc to collect their revenue then it is a process the a business should pay for, not the paying customer.

  4. 0

    I wish he outlawed online transaction fees too. I hate getting charged from cinemas for paying and booking myself into a movie online. It stinks.

    • 0

      What about the $$$ for ATM fees ????? for every withdraw ??? use to be free ….

    • 0

      I want one of those ATM machines Aussie they make a mint.

    • 0

      ATM should also be FREE

    • 0

      Friends of mine booked movie tickets ( $10 each) at the Redcliffe cultural centre, in Qld. and for using a credit card were then charged a further $8.00. !! That should have reached the ACCC.

    • 0

      Friends of mine booked movie tickets ( $10 each) at the Redcliffe cultural centre, in Qld. and for using a credit card were then charged a further $8.00. !! That should have reached the ACCC.

    • 0

      Jackie, why do you book your tickets online? I don’t. I used to, but I got fed up paying the fee for no good reason. We only have Village Cinemas near us and they have a facility that indicates how many seats are available for a session. If the number is over 50 we buy at the door. Under 10 I would be more likely to book if that was the only session available.
      The last time we went to the movies we were the only ones in the theater, the previous time there were about a dozen. With what we saved on booking fees we can now go to another movie for free.

  5. 0

    I wouldn’t out anything past Telstra. They have been voted the worst Telecommunications company in the western world.

    They spend millions on call centers based overseas and have now just sacked 1400 staff to save money.

    And you don’t hear a word from our moronic politicians whose sickening mantra is JOBS,JOBS,JOBS.

    Talk about a bunch of low-life hypocrites.

  6. 0

    I am with Optus for my internet/phone service, getting charged 2 different ammounts each month, one is for not having direct debit the other is for my paper bill, the reason I don’t like direct debit is if you want to change your supplier it quite often takes more than one attempt to stop a direct debit, I am sure that I an not the only person that this has happened to. I recall quite a few years ago I had a direct debit for an oven I bought, after I had paid the total bill I kept getting a bill stating that I still owed money, I called them several times and they agreed that I had paid the full ammount and they would sort it out, before long I got an order to pay up or a debt collection agency were going to take me to court for recovery, it got sorted eventually but not before I had been put through the wringer. This might not be the experience of many, but it was enough to put me off direct debit.

    • 0

      I agree Dim and I only have direct debits from me to me (i.e. automatic transfer of funds from one account to another). I will never agree to direct debits for anyone else. I am in charge of my bank account and I do NOT want companies taking what they deem fit and with no reference to me. So I too get charged $2 a month by Optus as a punishment. I also note that Energy Australia has suddenly and without warning added $2 to my paper electricity bill – like they don’t charge enough already!

      I vehemently object to being charged to receive and pay my bills. And I pay my bills either through Bpay or electronic transfer from my account.

    • 0

      Yes Dim I have had issues and will never issue a new direct debit.

      I would certainly not have one for an unknown amount such as electricity or telecoms as a mistake once paid out would require a lot of time and expense to sort out.

      Businesses are no longer able to demand our loyalty or trust as they have proved otherwise.

      Charging for a paper bill is bad business practise. Surcharges for card payment also fits that bill as far as I’m concerned.

      I have no respect for companies that do so.

  7. 0

    I am charged by Iprimus for paying at the post office and also a charge for not doing direct debit, even though I receive my bill via the internet and pay by BPAY. This is such a huge rort and puts an extra $5-$6 on my account each month. So sick to death of being screwed by businesses! Another bone of contention is that these businesses operate overseas as do so many more, taking away Australian job!!!!

    • 0

      At least you know the companies operating overseas call centres. I object far more to companies you think are in Australia, they have an ABN, they have a Australian address, they have an Australian telephone number, they have an Australian bank account and they issue invoices in Australian dollars. But when you pay their bill you notice on your bank statement you are up for international transaction charges and currency exchange. This is yet another deceptive practice that should be stopped.

    • 0

      …and what about airline tickets – how does one avoid paying the debit card fee!

    • 0

      KSS I agree very annoying I thought I hired a car recently in Adelaide turned out I was paying in Euros and also found the exchange and fees on my bank statement

    • 0

      Web hosting company did this to me. They boast ”we are Australian and our support staff is based in Australia and speaks fluent English”, but when I paid with a credit card I discovered a hefty currency conversion and international transaction fee. To the company’s credit, when I complained they refunded both additional charges and they gave me instructions to ensure it never happened again.

      You won’t win with all companies because some are unconscionable, but it’s worth making a complaint.

  8. 0

    Of course there will have to be exceptions for people who can’t use and don’t have computers but, they will be charged an extra fee for the paper and mail cost.

  9. 0

    Big companies are over the top with their bullying tactics to customers. Outlandish charges because you do not want to do what they want you to do. Well bad luck, they should be held to account for such charges.

  10. 0

    What happens when we no longer have the ability to access the internet. If there is no one to do this for you then what do we do? My husband doesn’t use the internet so if something happened to me he would have enormous problems.

    • 0

      Companies will have to provide for millions of elderly and less efficient consumers. This is a good move by Mr Wilkie.

      I wish we had more Independents carrying about the little guy and not the party polling records.

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