It’s that time of year when the TV and newspapers are filled with a look back at the year, and its highlights, so I thought I’d share some of Keep Me Posted’s achievements as 2014 draws to a close.
We began the year in fairly good shape with a reasonable stock of supporters, but only one company willing to adopt our pledge to protect the rights of consumers to receive paper. Since then we have added three more adopters including our first financial institution, the Principality Building Society – taken together it means more than 10 million consumers are now protected by the pledge from losing their free paper bills and statements.
Our supporter base has been growing too, with some 70 well-known charities and organisations now on board. 2014’s arrivals included the two top carers’ charities Carers Trust and Carers UK, Esther Rantzen’s The Silver Line for older people, the Salvation Army and the Federation of Small Businesses. The latter even included us in their manifesto calling on the forthcoming 2015 Government to support the campaign.
Other friends in high places have included those in the House of Lords, who supported an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill put forward by Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes to protect the rights of those who want to keep paper. This was defeated by a narrow majority, but the fact that 163 peers voted in our favour was immense. In the Commons too we got our point across – more than 100 MPs signed our Early Day Motion which meant it was in the top 20 of all motions in the last session of Parliament. Now we are working on the MPs who might be elected in 2015, as we seek to engage the prospective parliamentary candidates across the country.
I’ve met with regulators including Ofcom, the Financial Conduct Authority and Ofgem – prompted by our supporters sending the latter’s chief executive more than 5,000 postcards asking for some action on paper bills and statements – and I’ve also engaged with the Government’s digital services team to work with them towards protecting those not online.
And we’ve also raised the profile of the campaign with many media stories – including the report highlighting that almost half of mortgage payers had no idea what their current rate of interest was, the real cost of a paper bill compared to what companies charge, and the fact that if you’re not online, goods and services can cost an average of £440 extra every year.
Other countries have also been listening. Spain passed legislation asserting that people won’t be charged for paper bills in June and the Canadian government announced that the over 65s and those with disabilities won’t be charged for paper bills by telecommunications companies from next year.
Let’s hope 2015 is the year that the UK wakes up to the fact that these costs are unfair too, with new legislation from Parliament, action from regulators, or service providers themselves realising that paying for paper discriminates against many of those who are already vulnerable, and scrapping their charges. If Santa Claus is listening, that’s what I want for Christmas, please.
I wish all our amazing supporters, who have remained so dedicated to the campaign in 2014, a very merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful new year.