Pollie backs calls for no paper penalties

Shadow minister for consumer affairs Tim Hammond moved a private motion calling on the government to create legislation to give consumers the right to receive paper bills without a fee.

The printing industry, led by Keep Me Posted lobbyist Kellie Northwood has been battling the major banks, telcos and utilities in a bid to get them to rescind the charges they make for their customers who receive paper bills.

Keep Me Posted has been campaigning on the basis that it is those who can least afford it that still receive paper bills, and has been pointing out that the corporations actually make money by charging $2 or more for a bill which will cost them a fraction of that to produce and mail.

Addressing the House of Representatives, Tim Hammond stated, “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,” he added.

[Related: TSA fights mail fees]

In the 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”.

Kelly Northwood, executive director at 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 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.”

Northwood says the Keep Me Posted campaign welcomes the support from Government.

“[We are insisting] 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.

 “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.”

At the end of March, Keep Me Posted held its first Canberra forum with shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh hosting the meeting. 

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