MONDAY, 29 MAY 2017

SUBJECT/S: Companies charging fees to send bills by post. 

OLIVER PETERSON: When your telco perhaps or your bank or maybe it’s the Water Corporation or Synergy or the like come to you and say we no longer want to send you a paper bill, Instead we are going to email your bills and if you want the paper option you’re going to have to pay for it. Seems almightily unfair, particularly that some people cannot access the internet or they struggle to do it. Well the Member for Perth is Tim Hammond and he’s introduced a bill into the Federal Parliament today saying we should not be charging fees for paper bills. G’day, Tim.


PETERSON: Thanks for your time this afternoon, Tim. It does seem like a rip-off sometimes, particularly for older people or pensioners who might not have access to the internet that they get slugged a couple of bucks just to receive their bill.

HAMMOND: That’s right, Olly. Look this problem’s been bubbling along for a while now and from what we can see it’s just getting worse and worse. And so the purpose of today was really to call upon the Government to start showing some common sense here and start protecting vulnerable consumers when they’re faced for having to shell out money that they can’t afford to pay for getting a bill in the mail in a circumstance where we say should be reasonable for them to get that bill for free, particularly if that was a state of affairs where they have been receiving a bill without having to pay any money and now they are faced with having to stump up cash for the same thing. I don’t think it’s fair and I’ve called upon the Government to do something about it.

PETERSON: Now it should cost around about a dollar I think, Tim, to be able to post out a bill to every consumer, but some of these businesses in your research—I’m reading that you found they’re charging a lot more than that.

HAMMOND: Yeah, look, that’s right. On average, from the information that we’ve seen—there’s a group who are doing some good work on this called Keep Me Posted—and from the information that I’ve seen, we’re looking here at an average of about three bucks that everyday Western Australians and Australians are being slugged and we’ve got some anecdotal evidence that that cost is getting higher and higher. We’re seeing reports of anything up to $6 or $7 per statement or transaction again in a circumstance where it seems reasonable just to say that consumers, particularly pensioners, and those who are in vulnerable circumstances should have the right to choose to get it for free, either in the mail or by email if that’s what they want. But as you’ve said Olly, the reality is so many Australians aren’t?, you know, quite at the cutting edge of the digital divide and they are reliant upon the post in order to make sure they can pay their bills. It’s unacceptable to us that they should have to fork out hard-earned money in order to have to simply receive a bill.

PETERSON: Yeah, certainly is. 92211882 is the talkback number if you’re being charged ridiculous fees from some of those companies which you are paying bill for. Name and shame them this afternoon—I’d love to hear from you: 92211882. Tim, I have this email from Jen. She says, “G’day Olly. I was charged $1 on my last Telstra bill just for paying it at the post office. I had the cash because the teens at home gave me cash towards the bills—what a rip-off. Just to pay the bill, I’m being charged a buck!”

HAMMOND: Yeah, look, Olly again it’s symptomatic of all of these stories that we’re hearing now. All we simply want to do—and all we’re calling upon the Government to do—is to set a level playing field so consumers know right from the start what they’re in for so they can make an informed choice. And look I would be delighted to receive as many inquiries as you get because they all add up in terms of pressing the case to try and get a change in this area.

PETERSON: Yeah, they certainly do. And I know that CHOICE, for example, took on some of the airlines with those ridiculous credit card fees that were $7, $8, $10, $20, $30 in some cases as well. There’s a reasonable amount of money here that companies should be able to charge if it’s only going to cost a dollar to send out a paper statement, then it can be passed on if you’re in a position. But there are some people who just don’t quite have the capability to go online and use the internet—and they shouldn’t be punished for it.

HAMMOND: Yeah, look, Olly that’s right. And look, we’ve got to bear in mind here that this is an impost that affects different people in different ways, and I don’t need to tell you or your listeners that a pensioner who is counting out every dollar to make ends meet—you know, a $3 charge on a phone bill is really going to make a difference as we head into these colder times as well. So it’s important that we put a stop to it and that’s the reason why I raised it today. I got such great support from my Labor colleagues as well, I have to say.

PETERSON: Well it does seem like common sense, Tim Hammond, but common sense sometimes isn’t too common in the halls of the Federal Parliament. How’s it been received by the Government?

HAMMOND: Look, fair to say a lukewarm reception. I had some pretty disappointing remarks from the other side of the chamber about this being the free market working as it was intended to. If only that was the case. Try telling those pensioners or those on a disability pension or those who are struggling to make ends meet that all of a sudden they’ve got to shell out money that they’ve put aside for groceries, just to pay for a bill that they should otherwise get for free. I just don’t buy it.

PETERSON: Tim, thank you.

HAMMOND: Thanks Olly. Great to talk to you.