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Optus opts out of paper billing

Wednesday, 29 April 2009
By Print21

Customers hung up over telecommunications giant Optus decision to charge $2.20 for receiving paper bills as it pushes electronic billing.

Industry sources speculate that the telephony company will actually turn a profit from its pay-for-print venture. From May 1 all Optus customers who chose to receive paper bills will incur the monthly fee, which has applied to new customers since January 1.

According to an Optus spokesperson, the decision to move bills online was as a result of a communication process with customers and the desire to help the environment.

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

Optus outsources its statement printing and mailing processes to a specialised service provider. Australia and New Zealand is the most advanced market for such outsourcing with industry estimates of over 90 per cent of major corporations outsourcing their statement printing and mailing.

Depending on the amount of statements a corporation such as Optus deliver, industry pundits estimate of the cost of printing and mailing at around $1.00 – $1.20 including the insertion of marketing leaflets. This produces a profit margin per statement many commercial printers would envy.

Optus said that customers can avoid the fee by switching to receive their bills online via My Account. One Optus customer complained to Print 21 that the process was time-consuming and difficult to navigate.

The company may not find its customers quite as receptive to the lack of printed statements as it hopes. In September last year, Vodafone New Zealand introduced online billing, providing paper bills at a monthly fee of $1.50 per month. In February this year, the company was forced to abandon the plan after a consumer backlash.

Vodafone spokesman, Paul Brislen said that the $1.50 charge provoked the most anger. "They [customers] quite like the idea of online billing but they hate, hate, hate the idea of being charged to receive a paper bill," he said.

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