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Paper is still important


This is an article for the Glamorgan Gazette

Though we've had quite a mild winter so far, I know from experience that sooner or later we'll be turning the heating up to combat the cold - if we can afford it! - and wondering about the accompanying bills.

 

Bills are something I've recently been discussing with Judith Donovan, who chairs the Keep Me Posted campaign, a group dedicated to stamping out the prices people are paying to keep their paper bills, as more and more companies try to deal with their customers online.

As Judith points out, the campaign is not anti-digital - it's just that they are demanding that people have the choice. Go online for your bills and statements if that suits you; if you prefer paper, you shouldn't be penalised for that choice.

I've jointly put forward a Statement of Opinion in the Assembly supporting Keep Me Posted's aims, as they are absolutely right about choice. But more than that, they told me that having paper bills can help people keep on top of their bills, and find errors more easily.

People who receive paper bills via the post are more likely to pick up mistakes, with 41% saying they have spotted something amiss on their energy bills compared to29% of those who check online, according to Keep Me Posted's figures. Their survey also showed that 28% of UK adults have been overcharged by their energy provider, with the average mistake leaving them out of pocket by £121 - that's quite an overcharge, especially for those who are struggling to afford heating already.

Paper bills and statements also appear to encourage consumers to take action, with 82% of those who receive their bill by post checking them immediately on arrival, compared to 72% of those who receive their bills online.

Besides the practicalities of checking bills and statements, I know many of the residents I represent can't get online anyway, and may be forced into paying for paper bills because of that. In my region,, 17.2 per cent of people in the Bridgend, Neath and Port Talbot areas have never been online. That's nearly 40,000 people. And many of those will be elderly or on low wages - the people who can least afford to pay extra just to receive their bills. That can't be right.

Listening to Judith opened my eyes to the problem.. I use the internet a lot, so it can sometimes be easy to overlook the fact that not everyone is computer savvy. I'll certainly be following how the Keep me Posted campaign is going into the New Year, and will do what I can to bring this matter to the attention of any organisations I meet with in 2014.


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