Government calls on business to cut paper billing fees

Older Australians paying for paper bills should check with their service providers to see if they are eligible for an exemption.

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said consumers shouldn’t be forced to pay for a paper bill, especially if they had no internet access or were on a low income.

“Many businesses offer fee exemptions and older consumers especially should contact their service providers – such as power companies – to check their eligibility if they haven’t already done so.”

Mr Henschke’s advice came after the federal government last week called on businesses to reduce the number of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers paying fees to receive paper bills.

At the recent Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs, ministers from the Commonwealth, states and territories agreed to provide a strict 12-month period for business to ensure more consumers accessed fee exemptions.

The target set was a minimum of 30% of consumers currently receiving paper bills to be exempted. If the target was not achieved, the Consumer Affairs ministers would ban fees for paper bills.

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said the move was designed to reduce the burden on consumers who had no internet access or were on a low income, while minimising regulatory costs for business.

“Businesses have a year to make their exemption programs better known to consumers and ensure those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged are no longer paying for paper bills,” Mr Robert said.

“Any delays or inaction on the part of businesses may lead to a regulatory ban on charging for paper bills.”

The Commonwealth Treasury will assess the uptake of exemption programs with a report to be provided to the Consumer Affairs Minister in the second half of 2019.

For more information and advice on paper billing, visit the Australian Consumer Law website.

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