A Private Member’s Bill put forward to Parliament legislates the removal of paper fees, a big win for the Keep Me Posted campaign, which is gaining bipartisan support in government.
MP Andrew Wilkie, the Independent Member for Denison, introduced the Private Member's Bill to the House of Representatives, which would introduce penalties for paper correspondence fees, and give consumers the option to opt in or out of digital bills.
Unlike previous motions being passed, the Private Member’s Bill, if successful, would lead to a change in legislation.
The bill proposes to amend the Competition and Consumer Amendment Act to include the words: “The supplier must not charge for proof of transaction” followed by “In the required form”. It then specifies the required form as meaning either a paper correspondence, or digital, only if the customer has consented as such.
Significantly, the Private Member’s Bill notes: “A pecuniary penalty may be imposed for a contravention of this subsection.”
Wilkie says, ““There has been a worrying trend recently of more and more big companies switching their customers to electronic bills without asking the customer first.
“To add insult to injury, the customers are now being slugged a fee for getting their bills sent in paper. The fee is often more than what it costs the company to send the bill out.
“Yes, electronic bills are convenient for many of us, but a lot of Australians do not want to or cannot use the internet to manage their finances. There are a lot of older Australians who are unfamiliar with the technology, many on low incomes who cannot afford an internet connection at home, and people in rural areas without reliable coverage. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
“The push to move services online to the detriment of many members of the community has been raised with me on a number of occasions, and I am pleased to be able to represent these concerns. I am also grateful to the Keep Me Posted campaign for approaching me about this and congratulate them for their work on this issue.”
Kellie Northwood, executive director, Keep Me Posted says, “We expect businesses and banks to take a pragmatic and reasonable approach. We are not saying they cannot capture the cost of doing business within the cost of a product or service, we are arguing that they do so appropriately and in an upfront manner, not hidden away in paper fees.”
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