Land of the Maple Leaf leads the way on paper

12th September 2014

Since we started the Keep Me Posted campaign just over a year ago, I’ve been amazed at how many countries across the globe have been having exactly the same kind of arguments as we have about giving the people a choice about paper.

Now a leading Canadian academic has added her weight to the fray, with an interesting article on why we pay for paper bills. This was published just before a meeting of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) held recently to discuss the subject.

Dr McNeish, an assistant professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management (a name which may raise a smile for those of you who remember ITV’s 3-2-1 programme as I do!), says 90 per cent of Canadians still resist giving up paper bills.

Dr McNeish puts very succinctly what we’ve been telling companies for more than a year. That “paper has more value than just showing the amount due”.  That “When using electronic banking, people feel that they have less control over their financial information than they do when the information  is received on paper”.

She also takes to task companies that spend millions to create good will with their customers, only to squander it “by charging for a service that is perceived by many to be essential to good financial management”.

And she also upsets the environmental argument so often made, that online = less paper = greener. “If they were also reducing the number of paper direct mail pieces sent (junk mail to you and me) the argument might hold more weight. By continuing to send direct mail, companies demonstrate their own belief in the power of paper to create a relationship,” she says. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

It seems Dr McNeish’s words carried weight. From January next year those companies that currently charge for paper bills will have to give them free to customers who have no personal or home broadband connection (more than 4m households in the UK), those over 65 and those with disabilities who need a paper bill. However the vice-chairs of the CRTC don’t think this goes far enough, and have recommended that the views of all Canadians are researched for an approach which “would enable them to make informed choices regarding how they are billed for their communication services”.

Since in the UK, communications services are some of the worst offenders with just three out of the 10 we surveyed last year sending paper statements by default, and just two not charging for paper, let’s hope they will soon hear that clarion call from Canada over here.

Judith Donovan

Read Dr McNeish’s full article here: