- Many older people “intimidated by incomprehensible digital world”
- Keep Me Posted campaign calls for consumer choice to be protected
The Keep Me Posted campaign, which is pressing for the consumer’s right to choose how they are contacted by banks, utility companies and other service providers, has been joined by The Silver Line, the national helpline for older people.
The Silver Line, which became the 65th concerned organisation to sign up to Keep Me Posted’s aims, has already taken more than 230,000 calls from older people since it was launched in November last year, after receiving a BIG Lottery fund grant.
And it is these older people who can often be left further disenfranchised in the face of an increasing trend for businesses to switch their customers to mainly digital communication. Only just over one third (37%) of people aged 75+ have ever used the internet*, while only 13% of those aged 65+ have the basic online skills needed to negotiate tasks such as emailing or searching for information**. The Keep Me Posted campaign is calling for service providers to give customers - such as older people who rely the most on traditional methods of communication - the choice to retain paper bills without charge.
Professor Patrick Geoghegan OBE, Chair of The Silver Line says, “Callers ring our helpline for information and advice but most of all they call us because they are lonely and have no one else to talk to or communicate with. For some callers the opportunity to get online opens up a range of activities and new ways to conduct friendships, making certain aspects of their lives easier and more fun. But there are also many older callers who tell us they feel intimidated and frightened by what they see as an increasingly incomprehensible digital world. For them it is vital that the information they need is offered and delivered in the way that makes them feel most comfortable, and that is likely to be by post. They should not be penalised for it or disadvantaged as a result.
“And while many younger people rely almost exclusively on mobile phones, most of The Silver Line’s calls to 0800 4 70 80 90 are from landlines. So it is important that no sector of our society, and particularly not the oldest and most vulnerable, are excluded from conducting their business and social lives in the most convenient way.
“Some of our callers would prefer to conduct friendships by post rather than by phone, so The Silver Line is introducing Silver Letters as a way for volunteer Silver Line Friends to keep in regular contact with lonely or isolated older people who want a pen pal. The Silver Line is delighted to support the Keep Me Posted campaign so that older people have the choice to communicate in the way that suits them best.”
Judith Donovan CBE, Chair, of the Keep Me Posted campaign, says,
“In my daily life I hear many concerns about the move to paperless bills and statements but even more concerns about the right to choose being taken away from consumers. There is no doubt that many businesses, in their drive for greater efficiency and cost savings, have forgotten to take their customers with them on that journey. The Silver Line hears stories every day from those who feel isolated, and the drive to moving everything online risks taking away even that voice at the end of a phone for enquiries about banking and utilities, which could be the only contact some people have each day. I am pleased to welcome them as supporters of the Keep Me Posted campaign.”
The Keep Me Posted campaign is a partnership of representatives from more than 60 concerned organisations such as Mind, RNIB, Dementia UK, financial education charities MyBnk and The Money Charity and the National Consumer Federation.
Already the Principality Building Society, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Wessex Water have led the way in consumer choice by adopting Keep Me Posted’s six-point “right to choose” pledge.
Keep Me Posted figures reveal that 44% of people believe their financial records would be incomplete without paper statements while 41% said they worried about missing a payment without a physical reminder.***
You can sign up to the Keep Me Posted campaign yourself by calling 020 7566 9773, writing to Keep Me Posted, 24a St John Street, London EC1M 4AY or sharing your stories, preferences and experiences at www.keepmeposted.uk.com.
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*ONS Q1 2014 Internet Access**BBC Ipsos Mori: Media Literacy, March 2014***Opinium Research, May 2013