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Corporations refuse to budge on paper charges

Wednesday, 04 April 2018
By Print 21 Online Article

Major Australian banks, telcos and other companies are refusing to drop paper billing charges despite a two-year campaign by paper lobby group Keep Me Posted (KMP) that has won widespread community and political support.

KMP has contacted more than 90 companies in the telco, banking, insurance and utility sectors to urge them to drop paper billing fees but so far just one – EnergyAustralia – has willingly agreed to axe the fees on paper bills.

It’s also been revealed that Westpac – which last year posted a profit of $8 billion – has just introduced a new $7.50 charge for customers who want a duplicate paper copy of their own bank statements.

 If you or your additional cardholder(s) request an extra paper copy of a statement that has already been issued, there is a fee of $7.50, says a notice on the bank’s website.

 “Unfortunately, the fees charged by Westpac are not a big surprise,” says Kellie Northwood, executive director of KMP. “Excessive charges, that don’t reflect the real cost for a business to print a copy of a document, have been around for a while in the bank and financial sectors particularly.

“Westpac charging customers $7.50 for coming into a branch and asking their statements be printed demonstrates that the ‘status quo’ – that is no legislation protecting consumers in the regard of paper billing fees – is not meeting even the most basic consumer law protections.”

KMP contacted over 90 major telco, banking, insurance and utility companies and only EnergyAustralia has so far agreed to end fees on paper bills, but Northwood is hopeful that a Federal Treasury review could guarantee consumer protection against the ‘unfair and discriminatory’ charges.

‘The system is broken’: Kellie Northwood, Keep Me Posted.

“Within the current Treasury review into paper billing fees, the argument from banks and telcos is that the system as it is now is working and no change is required,” Northwood says. “Yet, as you can see from customers not having any right to choose, as well as having to pay exorbitant fees for simple processes, the system is broken. With businesses unwilling to act in the best interest of the consumer, the Government must intervene to protect vulnerable Australians.”

“The draft of the new Code of Banking Practice only states that paper fees will be waived for customers who don’t have access to the internet. However, in terms of skills and confidence, there is a significant gap between having access to the internet and being able to perform online banking activities.” 

 While Treasury is processing contributions to its national consultation into paper billing fees, KMP is continuing to engage with state politicians and with representatives from big businesses.

In September 2017, the NSW government said it planned to end paper bill charges from energy retailers as part of a series of measures included in an energy bill relief package.

Keep Me Posted is a campaign formed by a coalition of charities, industry, Australia Post, trade unions and community groups demanding legislative reform in regards to companies charging for paper bills and statements.

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