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Home » Green news

Pros and cons of paperless billing

Submitted by on Friday, 26 February 2010 Loading Add to favourites  8 Comments

postStill on the theme of wasting less paper, our challenge for “Change the world Wednesday” this week is to either switch to paperless billing or write about the positive benefits of using paperless billing.

We switched to paperless billing years ago for most things. Getting stuff through the post is one of my bugbears – have you noticed how you don’t just get the bill or invoice, you get some glossy advertising material too? It’s a way of sending junk without sending junk mail!

Paperless billing

I now deal paperless for the following:

  1. Internet connection
  2. Landline
  3. Mobile – I have pay as you go, so there are no bills
  4. Bank statements
  5. Water rates and insurance
  6. Internet hosting for websites
  7. Electric – I enter my meter readings online

Insurance

Once a year I get paperwork through for various insurances such as car, house, contents and the mortgage statement, but I guess you need those. Although when I last renewed my car insurance I was asked whether I wanted everything on paper on via email. He said all they would send me as a hard copy would be the certificate!

Car Tax

With car tax, you can license your vehicle online now; but I’m unsure how I feel about that because I like to use my local Post Office for some things. Paperless billing is excellent for maintaining forests and reducing paper waste, but we do need to remember the future of our local services too.

Online

Although online services are great, they are not without their problems. You need to be on the ball to make sure the right amount is taken each month. That ‘don’t worry, you don’t need to do anything, we’ll take your money on 28th Feb” isn’t completely stress free; you need to make sure things run smoothly and log in each month to check things out. This means remembering numerous URLs and different usernames and passwords. If your memory is anything like mine this isn’t always straight forward!

Also, if you need to speak to a person, some companies are making this more and more difficult, which can be extremely frustrating. By the time you’ve listened to numerous options, pressed the right button, waited in a queue whilst being given subliminal marketing via their latest advertising campaign, it can leave you feeling quite frazzled.

Saves resources

The upside is, companies save thousands of pounds from not using paper and envelopes and this is often passed on to the customer. For example, with my telephone line I save £15 a year.

Despite it’s occasional inconveniences, if paperless billing helps to stop a few trees being flattened and posted through my letterbox, I’m happy to oblige. It certainly makes my monthly filing a lot easier!

To Recap. Pros and cons of paperless billing:

Pros

  • Save trees – 16.5 million trees can be saved in the US alone if all the nation’s households received and paid bills electronically.
  • Some comapnies give you a discount for using paperless billing
  • Your filing cabinet will be slim, svelte and you’ll save time filing!
  • Using less paper reduces landfill waste, transportation costs and toxic air pollutants
  • No more late payments which can result in charges

Cons

  • Paperless communication makes it increasingly more difficult to speak to a real person when you need to
  • Paperless billing is not convenient for everyone; those without a computer or the elderly for example
  • Paperless billing means you don’t need to use the Post Office so much; where more small companies are going out of business, this can be a devestating loss, especially in remote areas.
  • You need to keep on top of your daily in and outgoings to make sure you’ve been billed correctly.
  • Easier to go overdrawn with automatic payments

What about you – have you made the switch to paperless billing or is it not convenient for you?

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8 Comments »

  • Clare Josa says:

    Hi Rae,
    Great post – very balanced discussion. :-)

    I go paperless when I can.
    However, for my business phone (BT), we have been paperless for years but found that BT often won’t “let us in” to our account online – it seems to randomly reset passwords, for no reason. This then takes ages to get fixed via the call centre in India. And even then, the online system won’t always let you print a VAT invoice.
    So we went back to paper!

    For paperless billing, I find bills get “lost” in my my inbox – or even worse get swallowed by the server’s auotmated spam filter, to which we have no access. And, as you say, you have to keep an eagle eye on your bank statement to make sure you’re not being over-charged, which has happened to us a good few times…

    Yes, I’m with paperless billing to save the trees. However, I still miss the comfort of having something concrete land on my doormat, to remind me that a big bill is about to leave my bank account.

    What does everyone else think?

  • [...] the amount of disposable items we buy is even better!” Mrs. Green also wonders about the Pros and Cons of Paperless Billing. “If every household in the US switched to paperless billing, we could save 16.5 million [...]

  • Lara S. says:

    I think we shouldn’t take for granted that this is a good solution or that it will save energy or trees. My boyfriend says that with the increase in the information the servers are charged with, the need for refrigeration of the machines is also increased. And if the servers get too full of information, new machines will be bought and need even more refrigeration. I mean, refrigerated at very cold temperatures every day of the year. I don’t know much about this, but it sounds reasonable that everything that is not printed and sent to our doorstep has to be stored somewhere, and just maybe paperless billing isn’t as green as we think.

    What do you think? Have you ever heard of this idea?

  • Gloria says:

    I have been selective about paperless billing, and how I pay. Probably not the solution for everyone, but what I have been doing is getting some of the bills (typically utilities but not yet for phone; we have phone company issues) as a paperless bill, and then pay through my credit union’s free Billpay option. This simplifies memorizing too many passwords (!) and centralizes my payments through one site which allows me to see my payment history easily.

    I still enjoy/need the visual cue of the paper for major things, such as credit card bills, in part because there are several people who use the same account, and we need to double-check all the expenses. For business, it seems best to still maintain the paper trail (!) for the seven years that is recommended by accountants, hence…

    I agree with the poster about externalized costs of going paperless (versus using paper and the Post Office)… would love to know a way to analyze that, but it seems pretty hard! I think the main thing is to be thoughtful about the choice…

  • Mrs Green says:

    @Clare Josa: Great comment Clare; thanks for sharing your experiences. I don’t find the BT system to be great either. It’s sporadic when I get notification of my new bill being available to view. Like all things, it’s a balancing act between helping the environment and helping ourselves!

    @Lara S.: Hi Lara, this argument doesn’t surprise me. I don’t know enough about facts and figures to make an informed choice, but it makes sense there are other factors involved in online communication. Your boyfriend seems to know a lot about this!

    @Gloria: Anything that simplifies things is good in my book Gloria! I agree with you – being thoughtful about our choices, and perhaps frequently coming back to the table to see if we are doing the best we can is the way forward. Like you, I’m a visual person, so I do need to see things to be reminded of them and this is an adjustment in the paperless world.

  • Eco-John says:

    I have been on paperless billing for all my bills for nearly a year now. All well and good until the accountant asks for a copy of all my bank statements for 3 years to do my tax! I had no alternative but to print out all my statements again for their records. I might have saved a world of envelopes doing it this way but I did nearly cry at the reams of paper I had to print off :( any suggestions of ways to avoid this would be appreciated!

    Secondly, I get my internet line rental with BT. I can look up my bill online but only go back 6 months. This made getting records earlier than this impossible. Not the end of the world but a bit of a pain.

  • Mrs Green says:

    @Eco-John: Hello John, What an interesting conundrum! I’m not sure how you go about avoiding this in future – wouldn’t your accountant accept pdfs of your statements?

  • [...] yourself the problems you would incur if a statement were to be lost in the mail. Also, as the Little Green Blog points out, you’ll have a much slimmer file [...]