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Onslaught over Optus online: Letters, 6 May 2009

Friday, 01 May 2009
By Print21

Angry readers call on Optus to re-think its move away from paper bills while Glen Climo gets praise for his work at Bluestar.

Re:Climo climbs down from Bluestar NZ

Glen Climo would be one of the best colleagues I have ever worked with and for. He will be missed, his style is old-school and he taught us young guys heaps. David Jupe is equal to the task and will continue the NZ tradition of running a good operation.

Chris Eales.

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Re: Optus opts out of paper billing

Let’s face it, the environment has nothing to do with Optus (or any other organisations) emailing bills to clients. It is a straight contribution to the bottom line of the billing organisation PROFIT!

If any of these organisations were fair dinkum they would offer their clients the option of having their bills emailed and also getting a $1.50+ discount on the bill as the costs to the provider have dropped.

I then believe that there would be a “happier” take-up by the clients as they would not feel that yet again they have been shafted.

Stuart Cameron

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I agree totally with the article comments; to have to pay to receive an Optus paper bill is unbelievable. Imagine if a printer started charging its customers a fee for their invoice to be sent and also a charge for their monthly statement.

I have personally decided to go online for my bill rather than pay $2.20, as I have three accounts that I am responsible for and that would amount to $6.60.

Also I have found it especially difficult trying to navigate the website to retrieve my bills and trying to remember three separate log-in details, which is proving interesting also.

I will probably have to reconsider my options in the future when deciding a mobile provider.

Merv Stewart

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I read with dismay the article about Optus charging. I can’t believe that there is universal suffrage for online connection across Australia, anymore than there is an any other country. So, Optus have made the decision to disenfranchise customers.

Further, it is failing to see that it is missing the most fabulous and reliable appointment with their customer, and hence, a marketing opportunity! Cheap at the price of printing the bill. Perhaps Optus needs to spend some time on the Australia Post TransPromo.Com.au website?

Pat McGrew

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Once again we are being misled by an inaccurate campaign against printed material.

The Optus spokesperson said:
“Optus has introduced the paper invoice fee to encourage customers to view their accounts online. Using the online My Account service reduces the number of paper invoices produced, which is better for the environment.”

No it isn’t. The more you encourage online use, the more you contribute to greenhouse gas emissions via increased use in fossil-fuelled electric power.

Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University Physicist, estimates that one person viewing a simple webpage creates 0.02g of CO2 per second of viewing. For complex web pages with images, streaming video etc (like Optus’) the figure rises to 0.2g of CO2 per second. Spending 1 minute and 15 seconds on such a website results in the emission of around 15g of CO2 – the same as boiling a kettle. Now if I am studying a bill to check for errors, overcharges and possibly unauthorised fees, I will probably spend 10-15 minutes online doing it. Now I’ve ‘boiled 8-13 kettles of water, poured it down the drain’ and emitted the same amount of CO2 to read the bill.

Gartner research concludes that the IT industry generates as much or more greenhouse gases as airlines – about 2 per cent of CO2 emitted and rising. In the USA, around 11 per cent of all electricity used is attributable to internet and telco use.

There is no real carbon offset for any of the above, once the energy is used, it’s used forever. Timber and paper products continue to store carbon for years and years – even if they end up in landfill, which they shouldn’t.

Let’s look at the paper/print equation. In most Western economies, paper fibre comes from plantation –harvested trees with some forest tailings, sawlog waste and recycled fibre. Your bread comes from harvested wheat. When did anyone ever protest at the wheat harvest, or chain themselves to a wheat stalk? If you destroy plantation timber acreage, you destroy the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet. Trees sequester and store carbon, the fibre in them used in paper is re-used and then mostly recycled again, maybe 6-8 times in the case of newsprint. So by sensibly encouraging the planting of harvestable timber (and yes, discouraging use of old-growth forest), by responsible use of paper-based information, you are helping the planet.

The number one problem in greenhouse gas emission is the consumption of fossil fuels. Mark Mills of the US Greening Earth Society, in his 2000 seminal report concluded that ‘the Internet begins with coal.’ Anything that encourages more electricity use encourages increased use of fossil fuels until we come up with alternatives. Once information is on paper, it uses no more energy; the information can be accessed without using any more energy and the paper itself can be recycled and printed again.

I suggest that Optus’ announced policy is more to do with passing another charge onto consumers than ‘saving the planet.’

The answer is, stick to paper bills and if you want to eliminate the associated costs; sell promotional, targeted and relevant advertised products and services using variable data in full colour, on the same bill. It could even help the bottom line as well as ‘the environment.’

Andy McCourt

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I read that article with amazement. Our February account (mobile accounts) was overdue and we had not received the monthly bill from Optus and rang to enquire where it was, they stated it was sent and we must have lost it; they then tried to fax a copy (twice) but it didn’t work due to a problem with the fax in Melbourne.

I then asked why not just email me a copy, it would be so much easier only, to be told that they do not have that facility to email accounts. They then said they would mail another copy, which we still haven’t received and had to pay the bill without getting to check it

Ian Smith

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What gets me about this is that as a commercial business, Optus would already have the cost of providing a paper bill costed into its existing charges, along with its overheads. Will they be giving customers who use online billing a corresponding discount for these in-built existing costs? No, they just double-dip by charging for the paper billing which has already been charged for.

Also the absurd assumption that all domestic customers have internet facilities disgusts me: what about the elderly and low income groups who have no access and cannot afford the internet?

Optus, whilst keeping the inbuilt costs of paper billing as profit and asking customers to access their bills online in the guise of being environmental, is questionable as manufacturing computers and running them adds to carbon emissions etc.

Commercial customers will inevitably need to print bills for the purpose of audits and record keeping. This is profit making pure and simple.

J Harding

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I’ve got to say the process of setting up the online billing was the most frustrating I have ever encountered with online services. eg The site asks you to complete an online form and then gives the option to consolidate your users ID and password at the end of the form. I naturally wanted to minimise the number of separate id’s and passwords so I opted for this. Now things became really interesting: following a lengthy wait, the message came back that declaring this was not possible. Naturally I wanted to go back to the point where I had completed the lengthy on line form only to find you had to go back to the start and refill the form.

I decided to then call their help desk option and get their professional assistance to do what I had attempted. $5 minutes later and being sent from one consultant to another I received advice that there was an outage and this was probably the cause of my troubles. A very courteous consultant then volunteered to sort out my problems as soon as the network was back to normal. After a few days I received a call on my home phone declaring that it was impossible to consolidate the two passwords and IDs as the databases said my password and ID was already in use and couldn’t be re-used. I then explained that the original database option was to integrate the two IDs together. None-the-less I now have another user ID and another password that was given to me over the phone.
 
And guess what, I now can’t even print an online version of my tax invoice as their system can’t produce anything other the nil amount as I use a direct debit to pay online.
 
I loved the old system, but why am I forced to pay $ 2.20 for the privilege.
 
Not happy Jan!
 
Lou Sines

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Optus stating that its electronic billing will help the environment is just wishful thinking, or more accurately, spin. It has made a decision to ignore the cost of customers printing out copies of the bill at a much higher cost in both monetary and environmental terms because they’ll do it on office laser printers putting out way too much ozone and toner dust. Invoices produced by high-speed variable printers do it at a fraction of the cash cost and also with less damage to the environment.

At least they have not said they’ll plant a tree, maybe because they’d have had Timbercorp look after it.

There is a compromise possible: summary bills with individual details on line provided they can guarantee that those details will still be available years later when the auditors ask questions.

Both Optus and Vodafone ignored a basic aspect of marketing: You don’t charge people for a change they don’t want; you cost it in at the next price increase and give a discount to those willing to accept electronic billing.

Gordon Woolf

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This is the first I have heard of it and I have three accounts with Optus. When were they going to tell us?

Ryan Evans

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Re: Girls’ day out at manroland

The comment that the girls did not know about the industry is valid from my point of view too. I would have dearly loved to have known I could work in this industry when I was at school; it was what I loved to do in my holidays (making paper, printing patterns making wall paper, cards and books) but I had no idea it was there or how to find it or who did it.

I have only just entered the industry in my 40s. How sad is that. There are people with a passion out there and they don’t even know how to find the industry. Wish I’d had the chances these girls are getting.

Jude Woods

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