Canada lags behind many developed nations when it comes to protecting consumer choice and fair-access to paper-based communications.
In Canada, telecommunications providers such as Bell and Telus (Koodo) have aggressively been switching their customers to paperless billing without choice, and often without any warning.
Keep Me Posted North America (KMP) has received several complaints about this issue. Consumers tell us that they are against this practice and have called customer service departments at the companies asking to switch back to paper billing for many reasons:
- They need the paper copy for archiving and record-keeping, and they don’t believe they should have to pay for the paper and printing.
- They do not feel comfortable with online financial transactions due to scams and online fraud.
- The paper bill is a reminder that a bill is due at a certain date, and more reliable for them than online communications.
The reasons for a paper preference are numerous and summarized on our fact sheet The Push to Digital – How do Consumers Feel About it?
As a result of these complaints, KMP filed comments to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) urging the regulatory body to finally take the actions necessary to ensure that customers are given a clear choice in how they receive bills and other essential communications — on paper or digital — and that they are not charged extra for paper.
The KMP intervention was in response to the CRTC’s request for public feedback in a proceeding that could shape billing practices across the Canadian telecommunications industry. This regulatory review evolved from Koodo Mobile’s paperless billing practices, and the grassroots efforts of KMP coalition member Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the National Pensioners Federation and energized consumers challenging them every step of the way.
KMP shared highly relevant data from its consumer research, including the fact that 82% of Canadian consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications and 80% believe they should have the right to revert to paper options after choosing digital products or services. KMP facts and figures consistently reinforce what consumers and public interest groups have been telling the CRTC for years.
KMP reminded the Commission of its legal authority and duty to act on behalf of consumers, while outlining flawed corporate arguments surrounding innovation and price competition. The comments pointed to many other nations that have forged ahead in protecting their citizens’ communications preferences. For example and just to name a few:
Ireland – The Irish Commission for Communications Regulations issued a decision in June 2013 that declared paper bills must be issued by service providers free of charge unless otherwise requested by the consumer.
France – Since January 2014, French consumers have had the right, free of charge or disadvantage, to receive bills on paper rather than electronic means. The request may be made at any time including at the time of subscription.
Spain – A new consumer law passed in 2014 implemented the Spanish consumer’s right to receive paper bills for all types of consumer contracts and this right cannot be made dependent on any economic amount. Companies also must have the explicit consent of the consumer to legally send electronic instead of paper bills.
To see how Canada lags behind the International movement to protect consumer access to paper-based communications, see our fact sheet Global Insights – Consumer Lobby for Legislative Protection.
This CRTC proceeding is the perfect opportunity for Canada to finally take a leadership role, and follow KMP’s Best Practices for essential communications as a model framework for telecommunications industry billing practices.