NDP Opposes 'Pay to Pay' Billing
Bell Canada has begun imposing new fees on customers who receive paper copies of their bills. In April Internet customers were told that they would have to switch to online billing by June, or start paying $2 a month for their paper bills. While Bell is trying to brand the move as “part of our ongoing effort to be environmentally friendly and improve the level of billing information,” the NDP has called Bell out on this ‘Pay to Pay’ policy.
NDP MP Andrew Cash is calling on the federal government to prohibit these fees, pointing out the unfairness of charging customers a new fee for an old service. “When’s the last time you bought anything and had to pay extra for the bill it was written on?” asks Cash.
Bell has indicated that fees may be temporarily waived under “hardship” circumstances but this policy does not consider users who are uncomfortable checking their accounts online, or older customers who may have difficulty doing so.
The use of ‘negative option’ billing (imposing a charge if action is not taken by a certain date) looks to many customers like a move to boost Bell’s profits. Companies save money by switching to online billing, so why aren’t those savings being passed on to customers? Shouldn’t customers who accept online billing be given a $2 deduction from their bill, rather than implementing new charges for customers who opt to keep receiving the paper bills? “This is a clear cash-grab worth millions of dollars” says Cash.
This is a symptom of a larger problem: our broken telecom system promotes media concentration rather than competition, and high prices for poor services. The NDP has pointed out that Bell isn’t the first to implement this ‘pay to pay’ policy, and that “over the last year many telephone, internet, TV and other companies have introduced new monthly charges on customers who continue to receive a paper copy of their bill in the mail”. If we had more independent alternatives and decent rules to protect customers, our service providers would not be able to get away with this.
Recent shifts in the focus of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) towards a more pro-citizen approach indicate potential for a change to this situation. The CRTC is developing new standards for Big Telecom in order to protect Canadians, so now is the time to push for our rights.
Our Cell Phone Horror Stories campaign is one opportunity for Canadians to have a voice in the CRTC’s development of these national rules, so make sure you share your experience. You can also sign the NDP’s petition to stop ‘Pay to Pay’ fees.