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Consumers Want The Right To Choose How They Receive Their Bills And Statements

There is a worrying trend from organisations who increasingly want to move their customer communications online, particularly bills and statements. Typically, this decision is made for cost reasons, but misleading claims about the environment are being used all too often instead. This is commonly referred to as Greenwashing.

A study, conducted by the not-for-profit organisation Two Sides and independent research company Toluna, aims to understand changing consumer perceptions towards print and paper. The study found that consumers overwhelmingly want the right to choose how they receive their communications (digitally or printed) from organisations. 78% of UK consumers want this choice.

The Right To Choose

Defaulting people online without a choice to save cost, will impact those most vulnerable and at risk in our communities. In the UK, 6.3% of all adults have never used the internet (Office of National Statistics, 2020). Often, it is the most vulnerable members of society that depend on traditional, postal, transactional mail. The move to an online only society risks leaving older people, the disabled, rural dwellers and those on low incomes disconnected.

Alongside the right to choose, consumers are also demanding that they are not penalised for selecting paper communication. 58% of UK consumers agree that they should not be charged more for choosing a paper bill or statement. Furthermore, organisations must be careful when forcing their customers online. If a UK consumer were forced to move to digital by their current service providers, 32% would consider switching to an alternative provider.

Digital Communication Isn’t Always Preferred

In a society where everything happens online, organisations are in danger of thinking that digital is always the preferred option. However, this isn’t always the case. 59% of UK consumers are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged. Over 55-year-olds are the most concerned (64%), however, a large number of younger people have the same worry (58% of 25-34 year olds).

Furthermore, even if a consumer is moved to digital bills and statements, it rarely stays “paperless”. 59% of UK consumers (47% EU) regularly print out hard copies at home if they want a hard copy.

It cannot be denied that digital is having an impact on how we communicate but the growing dependence on digital brings its own challenges. The survey reveals that getting away from digital devices is more important than ever. 45% of UK consumers (46% EU) are concerned about how digital devices may be damaging their health and 43% agree (49% EU) they spend too much time on their devices.

Which Is Best; Print Or Digital?

Print and digital are often compared in a bid to decide which is best. However, the debate shouldn’t centre around “print vs. digital”, as both channels are important and complement each other. Ultimately, consumers must be given the right to decide how they would like to receive communications; ensuring that consumer choice is maintained and those unwilling or unable to access digital information are not disadvantaged.

The Impact Of Greenwashing

Organisations should steer clear from claiming that digital communications are better for the environment than paper communications. This marketing practice is known as “greenwashing”, where broad statements of the environmental benefit of switching to digital communications from paper are not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Statements such as “Go Green, Go Paperless” are not just misleading but hugely damaging to an industry that employs in the UK alone, 116,000 people (1,096,000 EU), in more than 8,400 business (115,700 EU)” says Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Sides Europe.

The research shows that half of consumers are not fooled by an organisation that wants them to switch from paper to digital communication based on environmental grounds. 52% of UK consumers know that this is down to cost saving.

The Paper Fact File

It’s clear that people want to choose how they receive their communications like bills and statements, whether it’s digital or print. Organisations should stay clear from misleading messages that state digital communications are better for the environment than printed communications when the evidence shows that print and paper have many sustainable qualities.

Visit our Paper Fact File to discover the facts about paper’s sustainable attributes. Some might surprise you!