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Energy suppliers moving from paper to online billing

More and more utility firms are making the jump to online billing, a worry for those not comfortable using the internet

‘Keep Me Posted’ – a campaign group fighting against online billing – have stated that energy suppliers are offering discounts of up to £300 a year for customers who agree to use online-only gas and electricity tariffs.

While many consumers would agree that online billing is more convenient for them, as well as being a more environmentally-friendly, the group claims it does not suit everyone.

The hidden costs of paperless billing

Research by the campaign group revealed that households using bills and statements online are less likely to check them, and are more likely to miss a payment or fall deeper into debt.

Up to 40% of UK adults say the removal of paper statements could have a serious impact on their finances, while 41% worried about the possibility of missing a payment if they did not receive a paper copy.

Judith Donovan, chair of the organisation, commented: “We’re not anti-digital, we’re pro-choice. Not everyone has an iPad attached to their elbows or good broadband connection.”

Ms Donovan intends to take her campaign to parliament once the summer break in Westminster is over.

“I’ll be making a nuisance of myself until politicians see me,” she said.

Many older Brits struggle to use the internet

The issue of paperless billing has also been brought up by charities for the elderly and people with mental health issues, including Dementia UK and Mind. These have joined consumer and postal groups to campaign against the move.

Research from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that just one third of Brits aged over 75 have browsed the internet. Around 7.1 million UK adults have never been online, with 45% of this figure being over the age of 75.

Ms Donovan noted that while large companies will say they no longer use paper to help them be greener, if people are printing off all their bills at home anyway, this could end up being less sustainable, especially given the cost of ink.

She noted that people who cannot use the internet are already being penalised in other ways. For example, buying a senior railcard online can save pensioners a significant amount of money.

What’s more, some building societies ask for paper statements as proof of identity, she noted, and will not accept a statement printed off at home.

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