Spark (operating then as Telecom) did it earlier this year, and now it's Vodafone’s turn. From 7 October, Vodafone will start charging $1.50 per paper bill. Emailed bills will remain free of charge. The charges apply to Vodafone and Telstraclear customers.
Vodafone has gone one step further than Spark, which only demands $1.50 from customers who have broadband (customers who only have home lines aren’t charged for paper bills). Vodafone is charging all its customers.
One customer who isn’t happy is Consumer member Peter Sayers. “I have been with Telstra for several years, and it appears to me that they are changing the rules half way through the game.”
Vodafone says the move is in its customers’ best interests. “We truly believe that moving to email is going to give our customers a richer experience in understanding their usage and bills.”
We aren’t so sure, though. Research last year in the UK showed that 40 percent of people who received paper bills noticed errors on their bill, compared with 29 percent who received their bills online. The report said younger people are particularly affected by “online blindness” – “only 9 percent of those aged 18-24 who receive their bills online say they check them for errors.”
The study was prompted by revelations that 28 percent of energy-company customers in the UK were overcharged – the average error was worth £121 a year in the companies’ favour.
Think again if you think New Zealand telcos can’t make mistakes in their billing. The Telecommunication Dispute Resolution service says billing and credit problems are the largest category of disputes it resolves. The move to online billing may well be in customers’ interests but it may also mean fewer billing mistakes are picked up. And the UK study shows clearly who that benefits.