The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) today announced that it will meet with telecom companies to discuss the practice of charging additional fees to customers who wish to receive paper bills.
Before sitting down for a round-table discussion, the CRTC has looked into the current status of these practices in Canada and other countries. As it turns out, 36 companies have said they have not charged any fees for paper bills since November 2013.
On the other hand, there are a further 27 companies acknowledging that their fees range from $0.99 to $5.95 per month just for issuing paper bills. Some of the companies mentioned here provide exemptions to these charges for customers who do not have Internet access.
What the CRTC plans to address is the lack of consistent practice across the industry.
The practice of charging for paper bills or paper statements isn’t unique to the telecom industry, nor to Canada. This practice is also emerging in other industries such as banking, and other countries such as Australia, the UK, and the US.
In Australia, for example, the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code requires companies to clearly inform customers about fees such as billing in a different media (paper). In the UK, the Communications Act 2003 protects certain vulnerable customers from being charged for receiving bills.
In the US, some major telecom players charge for detailed paper bills for mobile services, while smaller players charge for paper bills. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have any rules related to fees for paper bills for wireless services.
There is one thing, though, that needs to be kept in mind while discussing the practice of charging or not charging for paper bills in telecom: the 21% of Canadian households who don’t have any form of access to Internet services, and the 72% of Canadians aged 65 or over who don’t use the Internet.
Shortly after the CRTC press release was published, two consumer advocate groups, the PIAC and CAC, expressed their disappointment regarding the regulator’s attempt to end billing with paper bills.