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Sukkar “misses the point” on paper fees: KMP

Wednesday, 02 May 2018
By Print 21 Online Article

Keep Me Posted has accused Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar of pushing a corporate agenda in a new national campaign to encourage consumers to ‘Go paperless to save money.’

‘A clear lack of understanding’: Kellie Northwood, executive director, Keep Me Posted.

“This approach from the Minister is not only disappointing but shows a clear lack of understanding on the issues Australian consumers are facing in regards to paper billing fees,” said Kellie Northwood, executive director, Keep Me Posted. “The suggestion from the Minister is to ‘Go paperless to save money’. Yet who will be saving money? Certainly, not the Australian consumers who will need to buy a computer, a printer, paper and internet connection to print their bills and statements at home.

The campaign was initially announced by former Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael McCormack as an “interim measure to improve consumer understanding and awareness of exemptions from fees for paper bills.”

In a campaign update, Sukkar has now encouraged consumers to opt to receive digital bills and urged those who need paper bills to find out if they are eligible for fee exemptions. 

Pro-paper lobby group Keep Me Posted believes the newly launched campaign falls well short and does not support the spirit of the Consumer Affairs Forum agreement.

“We believe the role of the Minister for Consumer Affairs is to protect consumers against unfair fees, not assist corporates in their marketing campaigns for their digital tools,” said Northwood. “Treasury’s consultation paper into paper billing fees recognised that ‘consumers from disadvantaged groups who cannot transition to digital bills are being disproportionately impacted by fees for paper billing.

“The Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services is demonstrating daily the need for strong consumer protections for Australians in this regard,” said Northwood.

Paper fees have been implemented in the banking sector by some of the major providers such as Commonwealth Bank, Bankwest or Macquarie Bank. Ranging between $1.25 and $2.50 for a paper statement, fees can ramp up to $7.50 for a paper copy of a statement requested at a bank’s branch as seen recently with Westpac. Other providers such as NAB have automatically switched their customers to digital communications without requesting proper consent.

Keep Me Posted has advocated for a ban on paper fees on important communications for two years. The campaign, a coalition of representatives from the print, paper and mail industry, charity, trade unions and community groups, argues that vulnerable Australians are impacted the most by paper fees.

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