20th Apr 2016
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Unfair charges: should you have to pay to pay?
Senior woman opens a paper bill unhappily

Consumer group Keep Me Posted says it’s simply not right that consumers, who choose not to (or can’t) receive bills digitally, should have to pay to receive a paper copy of a bill in the mail. Do you agree?

Keep Me Posted, which according to its Executive Director Kellie Northwood, is not an anti-digital but rather a pro-consumer campaign that firmly believes consumers should have a choice and should not be charged to receive paper bills. 3AW host Tom Elliot, who had Ms Northwood as a guest, disagrees. Citing the ease of accessing the internet, the proliferation of smartphones in Australia and the ease of reading bills online, Elliot said that there is no need to send paper bills, but if people wished to have them, they should pay to cover the costs incurred by that company.

With charges placed on bills varying greatly, some as much as $3.50, is this a fair cost to the consumer?

Definitely not, argues Ms Northwood, who makes the point that not everyone has internet in their homes or can access bills online. According to data held by Keep Me Posted, it’s the most vulnerable that are being disadvantaged, with 57 per cent of Australians who have a household income of less than $40,0000 not having internet at home. Also, 46 per cent of Australians over 65 don’t have household access to the internet.

Ms Northwood claims that the Government should legislate for a digital transition, allowing those who cannot access the internet at home to not have to pay the charge.

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

Can these charges be defended? Is it reasonable to expect them to be covered under a service charge? Do you regularly manage your bills online?

You can listen to the podcast of the interview at 3AW.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    Morty
    21st Apr 2016
    10:59am
    The reason that I object to being forced to pay online is that all of these companies want to get their hands on your bank account number. Nobody seems to mention this: you just hand your bank account number over to unknown people who can access your money within the law if they can allege that you owe them money. My internet was hacked and the thief ran up hundreds of dollars of downloads. The money was whisked out of my account by the provider.
    Aquarian
    21st Apr 2016
    8:14pm
    Hi Morty. I don't think anyone is being forced to pay online.
    Just to receive your account online. IE attached to an email.
    Ayin
    21st Apr 2016
    11:42am
    My internet service provider charges me $75.00 per month, is it then reasonable for me to expect to pass on a percentage of this charge to those people who wish to save big business approx $1.30 which has already been factored into their pricing structures. for my bills to come to me via my service that I pay for? I also have an electronic post box why can't they use this ?
    Lescol
    21st Apr 2016
    11:49am
    Once there was a concept known as 'corporate responsibility' and those unable to use the newer technologies should be able to register for exemption.

    I never provide bank account numbers for auto deduction.

    cheers
    Aquarian
    21st Apr 2016
    8:15pm
    I never do either Lescol. But I receive accounts online (email). Then I pay online using BPay. So no account details are given out.

    21st Apr 2016
    12:14pm
    No, I shouldn't have to pay extra to receive a paper bill - I didn't put up the postal rates. Whoever you are getting a bill from can certainly afford to sent it to you by mail, and if you think differently you are a fool. I pay my bills by cash or debit card at the post office for the most part, and will not use the net to do this or phone banking. Yesterday I got an email from AGL saying if I was to agree to receive an e-bill they would credit my next bill with $5.00 - big deal! That $5.00 is soon eroded by photocopying costs for record-keeping purposes. These bloody people billing you for anything will try to squeeze the last drop of blood out of you!
    Rae
    21st Apr 2016
    2:50pm
    Yes Fast Eddie I would love a copier that didn't need $56 worth on new ink each year when I go to print off all the copies for the accountant.

    Perhaps an article on efficient printers would be great. I even had to get the postmistress to print the last renewal for a pass port as my printer baulked and couldn't access the site.
    Young Simmo
    21st Apr 2016
    3:00pm
    Rae, check these out, good luck shopping.

    http://www.oo.com.au/ItemsList.aspx?saleID=edaf7da5-e56d-4110-aa60-cf12d50ec6a3&ui=1009&sc=1&c=1

    ****************************

    https://www.kogan.com/au/shop/office-supplies/toner-ink-cartridges/?view=grid&utm_source=MailList&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160414_EDM_AU_3_OFFC_OFFC_InkToner&cm_email=jvsimo1%40bigpond.com
    Anonymous
    21st Apr 2016
    6:07pm
    Rae, the young lad, Young Simmo, probably supplied you with all the relevant info about copiers, but they are pretty inexpensive right now. I saw a Canon the other day for $18. We have an Epson which copies, faxes, and scans and was <$50.
    Young Simmo
    21st Apr 2016
    6:14pm
    Wrong Fast Eddie, go check.
    Aquarian
    21st Apr 2016
    8:17pm
    Hey Rae. Why don't you email the accounts to your accountant ?
    Blossom
    23rd Apr 2016
    9:25pm
    The cheaper printers tend to cost more for re-filled or new cartridges or whatever type your printer uses.
    It isn't just the price of the printer and cartridges, it is also the paper.
    Cheap paper tends to release a lot of "residue" which many printers dislike and need servicing. Some brands are more prone to "paper jams" too. I have a Canon, it is 6 years old and I have never had a problem with it.

    I started paying my accounts by direct debit from my Bank Account while I was still working. I worked nearly 20 minutes away from my nearest P.O. which closed 20 min. after I finished work. If I was delayed in any way it was closed before I could get there. It wasn't open on Saturdays at that time. I was also caring for an elderly parent which was a full time after hours effort. Another reason for doing this was my pay went into my bank account and the Bank in its wisdom decided to close the nearest branch to our nearest shopping centre. Consequently I also use my Debit Card for paying for groceries. I don't have a Credit Card
    socrates
    21st Apr 2016
    12:20pm
    Companies billing on the internet are already saving postage costs so it is still a saving to them to continue postal billing for people not on the internet.
    Tom Tank
    21st Apr 2016
    1:04pm
    Businesses should offset the savings they get from emailing bills to cover the costs of posting bills to those who cannot receive emails.
    This on-going racket known as maximising profit is getting out of hand and we, the consumers, are getting screwed over right royally.
    KSS
    21st Apr 2016
    1:09pm
    Whether you have access to the internet or not NO ONE should have to pay to receive their bill and then pay AGAIN to actually pay it.

    I refuse to give anyone access to my bank account - which is exactly what you do when you agree to direct debits. I ALWAYS pay on time, and yes I even pay online - transferring money from my account to their's. So why should I also pay an extra fee to receive the bill in the first instance and be punished again if I choose not to give them access to my bank account?
    fedup
    21st Apr 2016
    1:18pm
    Corporate greed that's all it is. This is the trouble today people are just too greedy they want everything for nothing business's aren't happy with a reasonable profit they want to gouge every cent they can out of the consumer. What happened to living within your means, smaller houses are easier to clean! how many cars can you drive? do you need to have multiple TV's in a house. Where is the yard for kids to play in why put in a swimming pool to use only in the summer time not to mention the work and expense with the chemicals, electricity, cleaning etc. Why have children if you don't want to rear them yourself? The Government should do away with the baby bonus for a start then there would be more money for schools, family allowance should be only available up to a certain number of children in one family, why pay people to have children if they can't fund them themselves? might encourage people to be responsible for their own actions.(fat chance)
    Young Simmo
    21st Apr 2016
    1:53pm
    What's all the fuss about? Just buy a computer and keep up with the real world. We are humble 76 year old pensioners, and have a Desktop each and we love the modern world. We have had internet banking since 2000, pay car, house, contents insurance and phone bill etc on the internet, and get all our bills by e-mail. Life is a ball. Anybody agree???
    Richied
    21st Apr 2016
    3:19pm
    I can understand some people's reticence with going digital. Even though I'm in IT, it still took me a while to make the switch and put all my bills on direct debit (the key reason is a lot of companies don't send advice when they know the provided credit card is about to expire, and you miss paying a bill because you forgot which card was used for each bill). But companies are getting better.

    Getting bills emailed to you and using direct debit does require more housekeeping. You need to keep track of logons to each company's website (use a password manager), and periodically go into the sites to review and update details (especially credit card). If you change your primary email address, you also have to change it with every company.

    Oh, and you have to secure your email. Unfortunately, most people have email on their mobile phones, and rely only on the phone passcode to protect access (not really good because if someone gets into your phone they can get full access to your emails). Using a product like 360 Security allows you a second line of defence by allowing putting passwords or codes at the application level.

    It's vitally important to secure your email - if someone gets access they can extremely quickly steal your identity (they can access all the websites you access, including bank, and simply clock the Lost Password button to have a new password sent to your email - unless the website provides a second security method, like secret questions or SMS verification, your identify is gone).

    As to giving a company your bank details for direct debit, this is actually very safe. Even if someone gets access to those details, they cannot withdraw, only deposit. People need additional information (usually collected through malware on your computer), or get access to your banking password (see above) before they can withdraw. And banks will only transfer money to a company that you have authorised for a direct debit.

    There's no need to print out bills anymore. Electronic bills can be ''printed' to PDF and emailed to tax agents.

    I got rid of my home printer a few years ago - it's extremely rare that I need a printed document, and when I do I either ask the requesting organisation to mail me one, or go to OfficeWorks and have them print it (with some fiddling, they'll let you email a document to them and they'll print from the email).

    For almost all the above, you don't even need a computer - just a smartphone.
    Bow Maker
    21st Apr 2016
    2:14pm
    Sure do, best way to sort out just about everything. No more queuing up at the bank, post office etc.
    Anonymous
    21st Apr 2016
    3:20pm
    I like paying bills at the post office, even with the queues. I gives me a feeling of elation and thankfulness for being retired after seeing the faces of morbidity on the postal employees. They resemble bored and angry robots who have all the personality, zeal, and zest of a mollusc.
    Red
    21st Apr 2016
    2:16pm
    Already an Optus home phone customer for 20+years. When Optus wanted to start charging me to post me a paper bill (which I had been receiving for many years), I rang Optus and made a deal... "You STOP sending me "Please join Optus / we will give you a good home phone deal" brochures 4-5 times a year, keep sending me paper bills, don't bother charging for paper bills, keep taking the direct debit amounts for each bill and I'll stay with Optus. How about that"? Result: No prob. Bills keep coming - no charges. $10 credit now applied monthly to my mobile phone. Apparently I'm a valued customer. Red.
    Anonymous
    21st Apr 2016
    3:28pm
    Red, when I had my mobile phone with Optus years ago Auspost wanted to charge $1 when you paid the account there. I think this could have been because of the old Post-telecom association, but it never took effect. Now is a good time to barter with your phone provider for a cheaper bill, more data, streaming devices, etc.
    Juju
    21st Apr 2016
    3:33pm
    Its absolutely disgusting. My mother is 84 years old and even with all our best intentions and assistance, she's still totally confused by anything IT related. Why should she be charged extra to pay a bill after a lifetime of pay taxing and raising a family single handed with no help from the Government or anybody else. Young Simmo as for your question 'What's all the fuss about?" There are thousand of people who can't afford a computer let alone internet costs, why should they be penalised further, THAT is what all the fuss is about!
    Anonymous
    22nd Apr 2016
    9:29am
    Juju, I can commiserate with you completely. Whether it is a tablet, laptop, iPad, or smart phone it is difficult for a lot of older people to understand the language and operation of anything having to do with IT devices. Pensioner are exempt from certain surcharges for cash, debit and credit card payment. Persevere and continue to demand a posted, paper copy of of bills - I do, and we have a desktop, a laptop, and two iPads. Good luck.
    Juju
    22nd Apr 2016
    4:51pm
    Thanks Fast Eddie, I'll check with Mum :)
    Anonymous
    24th Apr 2016
    6:13pm
    Telstra suddenly started to send my bill on line though not requested by me. I rang up and said I need a paper bill as though I have a computer I don't have a printer and need a hard copy. Now I get both; problem solved. I do have a printer but why should I pay to print out THEIR bill!
    freed1948
    21st Apr 2016
    3:43pm
    Posted bills is the only way I want to deal with them.
    KB
    21st Apr 2016
    3:43pm
    This is unfair for a number of reasons. Some people do not have the internet. It is always good to see a physical copy to look over and for family members to pay on behalf of family members who are unable to pay themselves People on pensions cannot afford to pay any extra.The internet is not always a safe method of payment
    Bow Maker
    21st Apr 2016
    4:03pm
    Have ever had a payment lost in the post?
    cdbstock
    21st Apr 2016
    4:24pm
    Debbie raises a significant issue
    There should be no penalty for those unable to pay bills online - mostly (assumed) elderly or those without internet access
    Rather, the biller should offer a discount for internet billing/payment to encourage that more efficient practice
    Richied
    21st Apr 2016
    5:08pm
    That's effectively what is in place (except the discount is applied to everyone, then removed for those who choose paper bills).

    Unfortunately, this is the way things have evolved. Years ago, the 'cost of doing business' was embedded into the price of everything you bought. Over the years, in the interest of transparency, individual costs (credit card surcharge, delivery charge, postage and handling, ticketing charge, fuel surcharge) are shown separately. So the price of the product may have gone down, but the total price to the customer is the same. It does give the benefit that in some cases, people can avoid a charge (and therefore lower the total price) by not using a particular component.

    Most utilities companies now give a discount for direct debit.
    professori_au
    22nd Apr 2016
    12:26am
    Remember these utilities, local government in most states, water authorities, power corporations, etc. are trading corporations and come under Consumer Law. What they are doing most likely comes under ACCC and Consumer law. read Competition and Consumer Act

    s.20 — Prohibition against unconscionable conduct(link is external)
    s.21 — Unconscionable conduct in connection with goods or services(link is external)
    s.22 — Matters the court may have regard to for the purposes of section 21
    As people get to understand this act they are challenging these corporations, in particular local government. Under the Commonwealth Constitution 1901, which is still our lawful Constitution local government is recognised as a department of the state. States like Victoria have ignored the people and chosen to make its own laws under its 1975 Victorian Constitution and its 1989 local government where it granted local government powers as a third tier of government. s 109 of the Constitution....Where a law of a state is inconsistent with the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth takes precedent to the extent of the inconsistency. There are other laws Victoria is in breach and as the public becomes aware these breaches are now coming under scrutiny. Learn your first rule of law that is the Constitution. As a researcher I have spoken with members of the legal profession and you would be surprised at how many do not know our Constitution.
    professori_au
    22nd Apr 2016
    12:36am
    In 19989 I attended a preview of the Gold Games and spoke with some young people sitting behind me. They were debating a point of law, which I happened to know the answer as it related to the Constitution. I apologised for over hearing them and said they would find the answer in the relevant section of the Constitution. Their mouths opened in surprise and I ask did they know we had a Constitution and they replied no. I asked did they know we had a Bill of Rights and they replied that they had been told we did not. I said we did as we inherited the UK Bill of rights along with associated laws and statutes of the Westminster system of law. While it has not been included in the constitution is part of the system of law we inherited. There are vested interest that want to do away with the Constitution, e.g. the Republican movement. The constitution is indissoluble but can be amended but only with the approval of the people via a referendum. Has this happened. No. Ask yourself who is running the republican agenda. Have the people been consulted? NO. However, we do know that the rich and powerful are the ones that are running this agenda. Why? To improve the life and conditions of the ordinary people NO. To run an agenda that gives more and more power to the rich and powerful
    Tiny
    22nd Apr 2016
    2:05am
    Those most likely not to have Technology are most likely those that cannot afford it? Foxtel charge you if you want a paper bill, I have mine. Direct Debit, but then they post you out the Invoice (Go Figure).
    No one should have to pay to receive a bill, to pay a bill.
    Tiny
    22nd Apr 2016
    2:05am
    Those most likely not to have Technology are most likely those that cannot afford it? Foxtel charge you if you want a paper bill, I have mine. Direct Debit, but then they post you out the Invoice (Go Figure).
    No one should have to pay to receive a bill, to pay a bill.
    Tiny
    22nd Apr 2016
    2:05am
    Those most likely not to have Technology are most likely those that cannot afford it? Foxtel charge you if you want a paper bill, I have mine. Direct Debit, but then they post you out the Invoice (Go Figure).
    No one should have to pay to receive a bill, to pay a bill.
    Tiny
    22nd Apr 2016
    2:05am
    Those most likely not to have Technology are most likely those that cannot afford it? Foxtel charge you if you want a paper bill, I have mine. Direct Debit, but then they post you out the Invoice (Go Figure).
    No one should have to pay to receive a bill, to pay a bill.
    Anonymous
    22nd Apr 2016
    9:02am
    I know, I know, I know, I know.
    Bowsa
    22nd Apr 2016
    8:34am
    Computerisation of accounts,payrolls,anything to do with receiving and paying accounts is supposed to streamline a business.It has with some and not so with others .I receive some bills by email and then pay them by B.Pay,direct debit or Pay pal.Where does the extra cost come in for the Company on B.Pay and Direct Debit ?Mostly they are computer to computer.The computer even registers the payment ,or lack of payment automatically.Before computers the process was more labour intense ,which meant more workers . Was there a charge for paper accounts then?With the number of people using digital accounts and payments and less people employed ,shouldn't this make the whole process less costly to the Company?
    professori_au
    17th May 2017
    10:00pm
    In business I guess there has been a charge for administration, so paying the cost of paying was an unseen charge. Now it is included as before but you are charged again separately. the worst offenders are local government but also the privatised utilities e.g. gas, electricity and water. By privatising them there are links e.g. where local government created one charge and this usually covered water, gas, electricity, waste management and now what they call fee for service. I am dealing with a case where I said to the Finance manager of local government that rates were a tax on the land. He agreed and when I said this was contrary to the executive who claimed it was a fee for service. He then replied "oh, only part is tax and the rest is fee for service. I requested a copy of the breakdown between what was tax and what was fee for service. I also asked was GST being charged on fee for service. I asked what other "services" were also charged GST. He could not/would not answer the questions as I told him they had a bearing on my clients affairs. You now have councils behaving as real estate agents, investors, developers; competing against business interests, especially in the planning department where the council's investments get priority treatment. Under the old municipal institutions council were designed to provide the needed facilities for the local community. Something they are failing to do in today's society. Service to the public has a very low priority. The bias is towards revenue generation and the revenue used for council's own agenda. Or government from the top to the bottom are rapidly becoming more and more corrupt, pandering to the vested interests, which are not the public interests
    professori_au
    17th May 2017
    10:00pm
    In business I guess there has been a charge for administration, so paying the cost of paying was an unseen charge. Now it is included as before but you are charged again separately. the worst offenders are local government but also the privatised utilities e.g. gas, electricity and water. By privatising them there are links e.g. where local government created one charge and this usually covered water, gas, electricity, waste management and now what they call fee for service. I am dealing with a case where I said to the Finance manager of local government that rates were a tax on the land. He agreed and when I said this was contrary to the executive who claimed it was a fee for service. He then replied "oh, only part is tax and the rest is fee for service. I requested a copy of the breakdown between what was tax and what was fee for service. I also asked was GST being charged on fee for service. I asked what other "services" were also charged GST. He could not/would not answer the questions as I told him they had a bearing on my clients affairs. You now have councils behaving as real estate agents, investors, developers; competing against business interests, especially in the planning department where the council's investments get priority treatment. Under the old municipal institutions council were designed to provide the needed facilities for the local community. Something they are failing to do in today's society. Service to the public has a very low priority. The bias is towards revenue generation and the revenue used for council's own agenda. Or government from the top to the bottom are rapidly becoming more and more corrupt, pandering to the vested interests, which are not the public interests
    professori_au
    17th May 2017
    10:00pm
    In business I guess there has been a charge for administration, so paying the cost of paying was an unseen charge. Now it is included as before but you are charged again separately. the worst offenders are local government but also the privatised utilities e.g. gas, electricity and water. By privatising them there are links e.g. where local government created one charge and this usually covered water, gas, electricity, waste management and now what they call fee for service. I am dealing with a case where I said to the Finance manager of local government that rates were a tax on the land. He agreed and when I said this was contrary to the executive who claimed it was a fee for service. He then replied "oh, only part is tax and the rest is fee for service. I requested a copy of the breakdown between what was tax and what was fee for service. I also asked was GST being charged on fee for service. I asked what other "services" were also charged GST. He could not/would not answer the questions as I told him they had a bearing on my clients affairs. You now have councils behaving as real estate agents, investors, developers; competing against business interests, especially in the planning department where the council's investments get priority treatment. Under the old municipal institutions council were designed to provide the needed facilities for the local community. Something they are failing to do in today's society. Service to the public has a very low priority. The bias is towards revenue generation and the revenue used for council's own agenda. Or government from the top to the bottom are rapidly becoming more and more corrupt, pandering to the vested interests, which are not the public interests
    professori_au
    17th May 2017
    10:00pm
    In business I guess there has been a charge for administration, so paying the cost of paying was an unseen charge. Now it is included as before but you are charged again separately. the worst offenders are local government but also the privatised utilities e.g. gas, electricity and water. By privatising them there are links e.g. where local government created one charge and this usually covered water, gas, electricity, waste management and now what they call fee for service. I am dealing with a case where I said to the Finance manager of local government that rates were a tax on the land. He agreed and when I said this was contrary to the executive who claimed it was a fee for service. He then replied "oh, only part is tax and the rest is fee for service. I requested a copy of the breakdown between what was tax and what was fee for service. I also asked was GST being charged on fee for service. I asked what other "services" were also charged GST. He could not/would not answer the questions as I told him they had a bearing on my clients affairs. You now have councils behaving as real estate agents, investors, developers; competing against business interests, especially in the planning department where the council's investments get priority treatment. Under the old municipal institutions council were designed to provide the needed facilities for the local community. Something they are failing to do in today's society. Service to the public has a very low priority. The bias is towards revenue generation and the revenue used for council's own agenda. Or government from the top to the bottom are rapidly becoming more and more corrupt, pandering to the vested interests, which are not the public interests
    professori_au
    17th May 2017
    10:00pm
    In business I guess there has been a charge for administration, so paying the cost of paying was an unseen charge. Now it is included as before but you are charged again separately. the worst offenders are local government but also the privatised utilities e.g. gas, electricity and water. By privatising them there are links e.g. where local government created one charge and this usually covered water, gas, electricity, waste management and now what they call fee for service. I am dealing with a case where I said to the Finance manager of local government that rates were a tax on the land. He agreed and when I said this was contrary to the executive who claimed it was a fee for service. He then replied "oh, only part is tax and the rest is fee for service. I requested a copy of the breakdown between what was tax and what was fee for service. I also asked was GST being charged on fee for service. I asked what other "services" were also charged GST. He could not/would not answer the questions as I told him they had a bearing on my clients affairs. You now have councils behaving as real estate agents, investors, developers; competing against business interests, especially in the planning department where the council's investments get priority treatment. Under the old municipal institutions council were designed to provide the needed facilities for the local community. Something they are failing to do in today's society. Service to the public has a very low priority. The bias is towards revenue generation and the revenue used for council's own agenda. Or government from the top to the bottom are rapidly becoming more and more corrupt, pandering to the vested interests, which are not the public interests
    Bonny
    23rd Apr 2016
    8:26am
    The best way around this problem is for people who receive bills online is to give a discount.

    I don't have a problem with organisations charging more for paper bills sent by post because it does cost them more to do so. People who receive their bills online should be given some financial consideration over those who do not.

    I do have a problem now with physical mail going missing in the mail.

    You can also use a third party in most cases to pay your bills so you don't have to give them your bank account number. Alternatively get yourself a reloadable debit mastercard or visa most of which are free and use them to pay your bills.

    25th Apr 2016
    1:39am
    Yes it is.
    The cost will be recovered one way or the other
    In this case it's fairer
    You want paper, you pay
    Lakewood Financial Institutions
    12th Jun 2016
    6:52pm
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    Priscilla
    17th May 2017
    6:25pm
    No only do I not pay on line and am charged for it but I am also charged because I will not direct debit even though all my bills are paid in full well before due date. This is another form of extortion. Under no circumstances will I ever direct debit as I feel you have no control of your money and the internet has proved how unsafe it is and open to scammers and hackers.


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