Paper Bill Surcharges Advocacy Update

November 16, 2012 –CARP received many calls of concern from our members about new fees for paper bills and statements from a variety of service providers. Internet, phone, and/or utility service providers and some banks have recently started to charge their customers $2.00 per mailed paper bill or statement in an attempt to encourage customers to switch to online billing. Service providers, such as Bell Canada, Rogers, Media, Telus, and TD Bank, among others, are charging the $2.00 surcharge. Two dollars may not seem like much, but several bills each month adds up quickly for seniors on low-income.

CARP In Action

CARP called on telecommunication companies last week to reverse their current policy of charging extra for a paper bill if the customer does not switch to an online bill. Those on fixed income, not online or uncomfortable with online commerce are doubly disadvantaged.

“CARP members reject the fees for paper bills – both on behalf of those who can’t afford it or don’t want to handle their affairs online – but also on principle. The vast majority would move their business but in most cases, they can’t because these companies have a monopoly or it would mean disrupting all their personal arrangements. Why should people be put to this personal cost when the companies can well afford to give people an option rather than no choice?” said Susan Eng, VP, Advocacy for CARP.

CARP Members Oppose Surcharges
The vast majority
(75%) of CARP members polled oppose the extra charges and would move their business if these services were not monopolies.

Almost two-thirds (60%) of CARP members are ready to take their business elsewhere to protest the additional charges for paper bills – if they could, even at great inconvenience. However, major utilities like phone and cable TV services are the sole provider of certain services [land lines] or in a certain area [cable TV].

In fact, opposition to the fees is not only coming from low-income seniors and those without internet access. Even people for whom the charges are not financially or technologically challenging are opposed to the surcharges on principle. It is simply unfair to charge people for access to their bills.

Janet Gray, the Chair of the Ottawa chapter of CARP told reporters at a press conference in last week  that surcharges on paper bills amounts to “discrimination against seniors who choose not to have internet access.”
CARP has since written directly to Bell Media, Rogers, Telus, and TD Bank requesting a reversal of the surcharge policies or credible exceptions for older customers who cannot or choose not to switch to online billing.

CARP is concerned that these fees will add up for low income seniors and disadvantage those without internet access. Some seniors lack computer literacy skills and/or do not have access to a computer and internet, making it difficult or impossible to switch to paperless billing. Low income and fixed income seniors already face financial hardship and are most likely to be without computer access, placing a greater burden on them.

Plus, the $2 per bill can add up for low income seniors who already face financial challenges. Several bills per month can add up to $10 dollar or more, on top of the bill itself. Fees may be temporarily waived under “hardship” circumstances when a complaint is made, but not all seniors will know to complain of hardship and many may not be able make a formal complaint due to language barriers.

Older consumers who are on low-income and/or cannot or choose not to pay bills online should not be charged for access to their bills. CARP will continue to push for a reversal these policies.

Read CARP’s Press Release on Paper Bill Surcharges
Read CARP’s Poll on Paper Bill Surcharges
Read Media Coverage of Paper Bill Surcharges
Read CARP’s Letters to Bell, Rogers, Telus, and TD Bank
CARP’s Earlier Advocacy on Paper Bill Surcharges