Online billing could lead to more debt

The move towards online billing, which is being touted by banks, utility firms, media outlets and credit card companies, may end up confusing customer…

The move towards online billing, which is being touted by banks, utility firms, media outlets and credit card companies, may end up confusing customers and could lead to an increased amount of debt, according to a new study by Keep Me Posted.

It found that people in the UK prefer to be given the choice regarding how they are communicated with.

More than half of consumers would like to receive paper statements, while over than three-quarters would ideally like to receive a mixture of paper and online correspondence.

The vast majority of respondents (84 per cent) are unhappy when companies take away their right to choose how they are communicated with, but there is hardly any legislation or regulation in place to prevent this from happening.

Keep Me Posted states there should be clear laws to ensure companies acknowledge customers if they prefer to receive billing information through the post.

Judith Donovan, chair of the Keep Me Posted campaign, said: "While many companies still provide paper bills and statements it is clear from the language that they use to engage their customers that they would ideally move customers to digital-only services; not to mention the raft of financial incentives many are now offering."

Currently, providers are financially penalising individuals who cannot use online only services. This means the country's most vulnerable people are being hit the hardest as they have no access to the internet.

The study also found more than two in five consumers believe their financial records would be incomplete without having paper records, a similar number of people are concerned that without hard copies of their bills they may miss payments and be charged as a result.

Under an online billing programme there is no correspondence by physical post as everything is sent to your email inbox. This can be troublesome as online addresses often get flooded with emails from all sorts of companies and notifications on billing can easily become lost.

Should this happen, individuals may end up missing their payment date and could incur charges from providers. This could add to the amount of debt people are in and would make it even harder to climb out from it.

By Amy White

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