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?