Paper and work are just two things that go together, and it goes way beyond just “paperwork” too. Paper has long been a way of maintaining records. The digital age has also increased the amount of paper used, something that doesn’t please the green movement at all.
But one solution just seems wrong. And that is the fact that many mobile carriers will begin – if they haven’t already – to charge customers for the right to get a paper statement. This is something I’ve ranted about previously, and likely will continue to do so a bit more. The latest carrier to make the change is T-Mobile, which this month will charge its customers $1.50 per month to receive paper bills, and that’s just for a bill. For a detailed bill that breaks down calls, consumers will have to pay $3.50 for month. The company counters by saying that bills sent via e-mail will be free. AT&T and Verizon Wireless currently charge $2 for a detailed bill sent by the mail, while Sprint has taken the carrot approach and offers a $5 credit (one time credit) to consumers who enroll in online billing.
The problem here is that there is still a segment of users, notably the poor and elderly, who may rely on a mobile phone yet don’t have Internet access at home. And today, there is a segment of people that may even have computers but not the ability to print. Thus archiving the bills can be difficult to impossible. Worse still is the fact that without a paper bill you’re forced to pay the bill online.
This might not seem like a big deal, but consider that to pay via online you need to link your bank account to the carrier. While millions of people do this everyday, there is the concern by some that this opens yet another door to your digital information. Imagine hackers with access to your account with the ability to take all your money? This is an unlikely scenario, but it is worth mentioning that unlike if the bank is robbed, your money isn’t technically stolen. The case might not be so straight forward if a hacker transfers your money out of your account.
And some users complain that paying online means yet another set of passwords to remember, and worse that unlike having a paper reminder to pay that bill, it might be very easy to overlook an e-mail and thus face late fees.
On the flip side, the carriers say this is a move towards reducing waste and saving paper. Environmentalists applaud the efforts, but let’s be honest – the carriers are doing this because it saves their bottom line. It has been reported that Verizon saves around $600,000 each year for every 100,000 customers who go with paperless bills. Environmental groups add that in one year Verizon saved about 4.3 million pounds of paper, or roughly 50,000 trees.
Of course, the irony here is that detailed bills are likely needed for expense reports or for other accounting purposes, so the savings in trees might be a zero sum gain. Many business users might feel compelled to print out their online statements, especially if there are concerns about providing information to employers, or worse, proving to the Feds that the phone was mainly used for business purposes during an audit. After all, the IRS suggests you save a hard copy of your tax information for at least seven years.