Canada Competition Bureau

PIAC Commends the Government for Ending Paper Billing Fees

October 24, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Back in August we did a story about paper billings – a nasty word to businesses, and with environmental groups and concerns, not to mention with most people going wireless, we wondered why anybody would still want a paper bill.  I have to admit that I miss getting a paper bill to remind me that I owe somebody money.  Getting paper bills was the norm and after the billers and banks gave us three to four years to switch over on our own, the ones left behind started getting charged for this service.  To be honest after all, it does cost extra money and postage to send out a paper bill and I certainly don’t want to have to pay for someone else to get paper.  Businesses have a habit of spreading their expenses over everybody else’s bill so it looks like nobody has to pay.

It turns out there are quite a few reasons why someone may need a paper bill or statement – they could be severely handicapped, have a caregiver, do not have access to a computer or be very elderly and simply want the peace of mind of getting their statement in the mail.  According to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), Canadians were getting charged in the neighborhood of $954 to $734 million a year on paper bill fees and the citizens asked them to fight those fees.  Jonathan Bishop, PIAC’s Research Analyst, said, “a majority of consumers have indicated their disapproval of being charged extra for a paper bill.  Most Canadians believe supplying a paper bill in the mail without having to pay an extra fee is part of the company’s cost of doing business.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hosted a meeting with many of the telecom businesses to discuss these fees.  Exemptions agreed upon were for “customers who have no personal or home broadband connection, persons with disabilities who need a paper bill, seniors aged 65 and over and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces,” and they said those exemptions will start by January 1, 2015.  The CRTC and the PIAC were happy for the small victory, but were disappointed that it did not go far enough to help all Canadians, so the Industry Minister James Moore stated that the Government would “introduce legislation to end pay-to-pay billing practices in the telecommunications sector.”

We are happy to report that the Conservative Government passed a 476-page fall budget and included Bill C-43 (Division 11 of Part 4) that effectively “prohibits providers of telecommunications services from charging subscribers for the provision of paper bills.”  The PIAC said the Government listened to the people and now those that want a paper bill may have one without penalty.

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