THE BLOG

Poor Web Education is Leaving Millions Out of Pocket

12/08/2013 16:07 BST | Updated 12/10/2013 10:12 BST
Getty Images

How many of you have received a message from your utilities or phone provider bidding a farewell to your paper bills? The likelihood is that most of you will have had this done 'on your behalf' by now - with nary a polite opt-in or out in sight.

Such is the problem that charities and businesses have got together to form the Keep Me Posted campaign asking for the right to choose how you get your bills.

Why? Well it's not to 'win the war against trees' that's for sure. When it comes to protecting the environment paperless is great - in fact it's the way to go. The issue however is that people, many of them elderly and vulnerable, are being actively penalised for choosing to receive bills by post.

This is because the majority of providers now charge a premium to receive paper bills - meaning those who don't have broadband or know how to use the internet are forced to spend more. Of course some people opt for paper bills because they prefer a physical reminder of where their money is going, or so that can keep them all filed away safely. But for others the decision is out of their hands - it's simply down to circumstance. For example, those living in an isolated rural area may struggle with a broadband connection so slow that they are unable to download statements.

While access to the internet is one thing - the government is working to grant 90% of premises across the UK with broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps - education has been overlooked. We need better education so that consumers know about these costs and can make an informed decision. More also needs to be done to get people comfortable with the internet in the first place - so that they can benefit from free paperless bills as well as the plethora of other money saving deals only available online.

Ultimately, the Keep Me Posted campaign is more of a cure than prevention. It's all very well putting a plaster on the problem but the reality is that across the board people are being put at a disadvantage because they can't get online. From applying for jobs and shopping, to finding the best deals and paying bills you stand to lose out if you can't access the multitude of choice available via the internet.

The key issue is that we can't afford to let people miss out. Instead, while all consumers should have a choice as to how they receive their bills and shouldn't face an unfair premium to do so, we have to encourage people to consider online bills and improve the UK's internet savvy to support this. Failure to do so will leave many out of pocket, especially those who could benefit most greatly from the savings on their bills.