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Two Sides: Paper Bills and Statements; A Real Necessity In A Digital World

Thursday, August 01, 2013

By WhatTheyThink Staff

London - In an international survey from Two Sides carried out by research company Toluna, 2,500 consumers were asked their opinion on a variety of billing and statement related issues with a focus on the present supplier pressure to switch to electronic bills and statements; ‘e-billing’.

Key Findings:

  • 60% of consumers state they would not choose a company which did not offer a paper bill.
  • 12% of consumers and 20% of 25 – 34 year olds, say they have switched to a new provider when a charge for paper based bills was imposed.
  • 8% of consumers and 16% of 25 – 34 year olds, say they have switched providers because paper bills were withdrawn.
  • 57% of consumers overall, 66% of 18 – 25 year olds, and 60% of 25 -34 year olds, believe a paper bill option is still quite or very important when choosing a new supplier.
  • 93% of consumers say they are unwilling to pay for paper bills.
  • 89% of consumers want to be able to switch between paper and e-bills without difficulty and cost
  • 42% prefer to receive financial services bills by post only and 37% prefer to receive utility bills by post only. For financial services, post is the preferred option overall.
  • 21% of consumers would refuse to switch to electronic bills and statements when asked to do so.
  • 69% of consumers say that postal bills offer better record keeping and 65% say they are easier to check. 48% state that postal bills offer more security and 46% say bills and statements printed on paper are easier to read than off a screen.
  • 38% of consumers are clearly ‘home printers’ with 26% printing up to 20% of their bills and 7% printing out between 80% and 100% of their bills.

Consumers are suspicious of environmental claims and appear confused by the environmental arguments used in the promotion of e-billing. Statements such as, “Go Green, Go Digital”, “Save Trees, Go Paperless” can do damage to corporate reputations.

  • 15% do not believe claims such as “Go Green, Go Digital”, “Save Trees, Go Paperless”. 14% feel mislead and 29% question the validity of these sort of claims.
  • 49% of consumers believe that companies are switching to e-billing in order to reduce environmental impact but the majority, 87%, agree that cost savings are the main driver.
  • 67% have seen statements saying that e-billing is better for the environment and 63% believe e-billing has a lower environmental impact. However 71% understand that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate.

Martyn Eustace, Director of Two Sides, comments, “The Survey shows that whilst electronic billing and statements are now becoming a standard billing method, consumers still want hard copy by post, or a combination of post and e-mail, and there are signs of frustration, from a significant section of consumers, with the tactics used to move consumers from post to e-mail. There is also mistrust of the motivation behind the pressure to switch”

The survey reveals for billers a danger of losing customers if consumers are pushed unwillingly to move to e-billing or subjected to cost penalties. A majority of consumers declare they will not choose companies that do not offer paper bills and are unconvinced about misleading environmental claims.

Eustace continues, “E-billing can be convenient however consumers are seeing through the dubious reasons billers give for changing to e-bills, such as ‘better for the environment’, and realise that their bill provider is just seeking to reduce costs. With 38% of consumers, now at their cost, printing all or some of their bills, the term ‘paper free billing’ must be challenged.
Over 33% of UK households do not own a computer and a properly printed and detailed paper bill is a basic necessity to monitor and record regular expenditure. Billing companies clearly need to review their strategies which are leading to the disenchantment of their customers and disenfranchisement of a significant part of the population. Consumer choice appears to have become a casualty of the digital revolution when it comes to billing.”

Over the past Two Years Two Sides has worked with major billing companies to counter misleading ‘Greenwash’. 80% of the marketing messages which tempted consumers to ‘go online’ because it’s ‘better for the environment’ have been withdrawn. There is growing evidence that digital communications have a significant environmental footprint and, responsibly used, paper can be the sustainable way to communicate.


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