A Progress Report on Paper Billing

"Yay, we're exempt!"

It’s perhaps not the sexiest of subjects, and really only a by-product of mobile service, but everyone has a bill to pay, right?

The CRTC has been looking into the contentious issue of paper billing—in particular, what Canada’s broadband, wireless and television providers are charging customers for issuing them. There was a meeting in Ottawa yesterday with almost a dozen such providers in attendance. The result? A few exemptions, and a lot more work to be done.

The meeting was attended by reps from Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, Cogeco Cable, Eastlink, Globalive, MTS Allstream, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw Communications and Telus. Not a bad turnout. At the end of the day a press release was issued, with this quote from Tom Pentefountas and Peter Menzies, Vice-Chairs of Broadcasting and Telecommunications, respectively:

“We are very disappointed […] that they were unable to reach a broader consensus that would have taken into account the concerns of all Canadians. We have recommended to our colleagues that the CRTC seek the views of Canadians to verify whether this approach would enable them to make informed choices regarding how they are billed for their communication services.”

TL;DR look out for yet another public consultation from the CRTC.

The meeting wasn’t a complete bust, however. Come January 1st, 2015 these folks will be exempt what the CRTC calls “pay-to-pay”:

  • Customers who have no personal or home broadband connection
  • Persons with disabilities who need a paper bill
  • Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Seniors aged 65 and over

The meeting yesterday came on the heels of a report released by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, estimating that each year Canadians are together paying between $495 and $734 million in paper bill fees to banks, broadcast and communications companies. PIAC did a public consultation of their own, and found the following:

  • 71% approved of offering consumers a discount to those who opt for electronic billing
  • 74% of Canadians surveyed disapproved of the practice of charging people extra for a paper bill or statement
  • 83% of respondents believe receiving a paper bill in the mail without having to pay an extra fee is part of the company’s cost of doing business

If I might humbly add my two cents to all of this, I do find it mildly infuriating that many of these companies charge a premium for paper bills and yet have no problem sending you printed ads in the mail. As a Rogers hotspot customer it seems like I’m constantly getting flyers trying to up-sell me on a home Internet, cable TV and/or landline bundle—all printed on glossy, expensive-looking card stock. I think it’s a bit hypocritical for that same company to charge me for a one-page printout of my monthly bill.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like this situation is going to change anytime soon—that is, unless you’re ex-military, elderly, disabled or poor.