The Keep Me Posted campaign has scored a big win, with a Private Motion being made in Parliament to legislate against charging extra fees for communication via post.
Tim Hammond MP, Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, called on the Government to ‘bring forward legislation that will give consumers the right to receive communications from companies by post for no extra fee’.
Keep Me Posted has been advocating for legislative change to restore consumer protection against unfair paper fees since April 2016.
Addressing the House of Representatives, Hammond stated that the ‘digital divide means so much more than simply missing out on the most recent season of Game of Thrones. It actually means having to pay extra to receive information, including statutorily mandated information, from utilities, financial service providers, telcos and other companies. It means paying extra to receive information that they can barely afford to pay for.
“Technological evolution leaves people behind. And those left behind are often defined by age, income level, educational attainment and remoteness,” outlined Hammond.
Kellie Northwood, executive director, Keep Me Posted says, “The Telstra Digital Inclusion Index shows that the most digitally excluded communities are people aged 65 and over, people with disability, Indigenous Australians, new migrants, people in the low-income bracket or not in paid employment.
“Currently, 3.5 million Australians do not have home internet access and the ACCC’s Scamwatch reports 42 per cent of scams are delivered by email or on the email – we must follow our international colleagues and provide consumer protection for Australians.”
During debate, the Member for MacKellar, Hon Jason Falinski responded with commitment from Government and highlighted the importance of the issue stating, “The Minister for Small Business, the member for Riverina, has responsibility for consumer affairs in this place. As such, he met with the Keep Me Posted organisation a number of times to discuss how to address their concerns around the availability and cost of paper billing.
“While some of the issues may be covered by existing provisions of the Australian Consumer Law, the concerns raised must be taken seriously. The Minister for Small Business has informed me that he has asked the Treasury to look into these issues.”
The Keep Me Posted campaign welcomes the support from Government insisting that ‘amendments to the Australian Consumer Law and the Electronic Transactions Act to prevent service providers and banks from charging a fee for electronic or paper transaction communications is the only way to protect consumers’.
Matt Keogh, Member for Burt, Gai Brodtmann, Member for Canberra, and Rebekha Sharkie, Member for Mayo, also rose to support the motion.
“The charges are disproportionate to the cost incurred by business, if it is a cost of doing business it should be included upfront so consumers can accurately assess in an open market rather be hit by hidden fees later in the transactional process. We ask all sides of politics to support legislative change and provide a representative voice to Australians,” Northwood concluded.
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