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Digital divide adds new fuel for paper bill fee ban

Friday, 06 April 2018
By Print 21 Online Article

The ‘digital divide’ in Australia has stopped narrowing, according to research from the Bureau of Statistics. The Keep Me Posted campaign has cited the study as further evidence of the need for a ban on companies charging additional fees for paper bills.

According to the latest ABS Household Use of Information Technology report, close to 1.3 million Australian households are still not connected to the internet, a figure that has changed little since 2014-15. Growth in the proportion of households with internet access stalled for the first time since 2004.

Those without internet access, especially the poor and elderly, can find themselves slugged with extra charges for not being able to perform tasks online, such as fees to receive paper bills. Kellie Northwood, executive director at Keep Me Posted, slammed the practice of charging these fees as ‘poverty premiums’ on disadvantaged Australians. “As the Keep Me Posted campaign is about to celebrate its second anniversary, it’s deeply saddening to see that some of the statistics we used at the beginning of the campaign to build the case against paper fees remain unchanged,” she said. “As the digital divide persists and inequalities deepen, it is critical to ease the burden on the most vulnerable Australians and put an end to penalty fees.”

Researchers J. Thomas, C. Wilson and S. Park expressed concetn in The Conversation that the potential widening of the digital divide could leave more Australians worse off. “Given the increasingly central role of the internet in educational activities, the fact that the number of family households without access has not fallen since 2014-15 is concerning,” they wrote. “Instead of a digital economy designed for everyone, we appear to have created a highly stratified internet, where the distribution of resources and opportunities online reflects Australia’s larger social and economic inequalities. The risk is that over time the digital divide will amplify these.”

One Response to “Digital divide adds new fuel for paper bill fee ban”

  1. May 04, 2018 at 1:05 pm,

    Frances Wade

    Well said! That’s a very good point – the result of the ‘paperless’ campaign has been double-edged – on one hand we reduce ‘clutter’, but on the other hand we non-technicals are left floundering, trying to rely on ‘backups’ of our transactions etc.

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