Between a Rock and a Soft Copy, part 3: The struggle for billpayers.

In the last blog [here], we acknowledged the advantages and disadvantages of paper and digital billing, from a business stakeholder perspective. A key point derived was that if digital billing does not work for the consumer, then it does not work for anyone.  To elaborate, here is a review of why a transition to digital billing may or may not be viable, from a consumer perspective.

Advantages­­ and disadvantages­­ of paper bills for billpayers

Before digital billing became available to businesses, paper billing expenses were classed as necessary overheads. They were absorbed by the entire consumer base through overall service costs.

With digital billing now a viable option for many organisations, businesses are able to maintain competitive service costs by attaching a paper billing fee on a user-pay basis.

While this marks positive news for those for those able to use digital billing, it is largely disadvantaged groups who depend on paper bills who are having to bear the cost. These groups often include the elderly or socio-economically disadvantaged who might lack internet access, have some type of disability, or are digitally illiterate.

Reviews submitted to Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) also indicate that some businesses may now be exploiting paper billing and as an additional revenue stream, with charges often outweighing the true expense to the business. While we believe the majority of businesses act ethically, it is unfortunate for the consumer where this is the case.

Advantages and disadvantages of digital bills for billpayers

As we become a more technologically-enabled society, digital billing seems a logical step from both a practical and environmental point of view.

By 2020, 94 per cent of households are expected to have internet access; and 100 per cent by 2030. However, there are currently still 1.2 million households without reasonable access.

Consumers with internet can enjoy more convenient and efficient management of their finances. However spam filters may mean that digital bills are initially unnoticed or altogether not received, exposing them to potential fees and penalties. There are also legitimate concerns regarding scam emails.

The challenges presented by both options for all stakeholders indicate the need for an entirely new approach which is fair and easy for everyone.

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