Telecom Provider's Digital Push Goes Against Consumer Preferences and Choice
Koodo, a Canadian telecom provider owned by Telus, is stopping paper statements and forcing its customers to go digital. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) responded by filing a complaint with Canada's telecommunications regulator, the CRTC, to voice their concern about the issue and to hopefully prevent other providers from doing the same.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the advocacy groups argue that, even in the digital era, many Canadians (including seniors, less computer-savvy people, low income families, those without computers or Internet, people with learning disabilities), often require or prefer paper bills. "It's their right," said Trish McAuliffe, interim president of NPF, which represents one million seniors and retirees across Canada.
In their complaint, PIAC and NPF argue that the right to receive paper bills, at no charge, is at the heart of federal legislation passed in 2014. Many Canadian telecoms charged customers a fee for paper bills until the law was passed mandating that no charge was allowed. Koodo argues the law does not mean telecoms are obliged to offer paper billing; just that they cannot charge for it.
The preference of consumers for print on paper and retaining choice between paper or digital billing has been well documented by Toluna and Two Sides in a 2017 survey that showed the following:
- 90% of consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from financial organizations and service providers.
- 85% of respondents felt that if they received bills and statements electronically, they should have the option to go back to paper.
- 83% say they should not be charged more for choosing a paper bill or statement.
- 78% keep hard copies of important documents filed at home as they believe this is the safest and most secure way of storing their information
- 76% are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged.
- 73% agree that government, banks and other organizations want to persuade them to ‘go paperless’, but it’s not ‘paperless’ because they regularly have to print out documents at home if they want a hard copy.
- 72% agree that claims about the switch to digital being better for the environment are made because the sender wants to save money.
- 68% find it easier to track their expenses and manage their finances when they are printed on paper.
- 57% believe that if a financial organization or service provider forced them to go paperless, they would consider switching to an alternative financial organization or service provider.
The Koodo initiative is likely seen by many as a cost-saving measure, and a way to pass printing costs to consumers. Perhaps another way to keep shareholders happy. Telus revenues in 2017 were $13.3 billion, a 3% growth over 2016. Profits (EBITDA) were $4.9 billion, a 4.4% increase over 2016.
The National Consumer Law Center of the U.S. writes “For many consumers, from those without regular broadband internet access to the most computer savvy, paper is a more reliable way of ensuring that the consumer actually sees the information and can retain important records. Paper statements must be available for free for consumers who want them, and consumers should not be coerced into electronic statements or steered into them by default if paper is the consumer’s first choice.”
For more on this topic see our Fact Sheet: Paper or Digital? Consumer Choice is Being Removed by Corporations
Phil has over 28 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in five continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and sustainably manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.