Cost-free billing statements | Inquirer Business
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Cost-free billing statements

Citing environmental and logistics reasons, some firms, e.g., banks, credit card companies and telecommunications companies, that periodically send billing and accounts statements to their clients or customers have adopted the practice of sending them through the internet or by e-mail.

If the customer wants copies of those documents delivered to him, he will be charged P30 (or higher) to cover the costs of their printing and delivery by courier service.

This scheme is being promoted by these companies as their contribution to the ecological campaign to “save the trees” and minimize garbage pollution.


For obvious reasons, they do not mention that it will result in millions of pesos in savings for them in printing costs depending on the number of their customers, kinds of statements sent and frequency of delivery.


If the customer opts to have a printed copy, they earn something extra for doing a job they promised to do when they initially solicited the customer’s patronage.

Although the “save the trees” campaign pitch has a nice or feel-good ring to it, it is, in truth, misleading.
The responsible and diligent customer has to download the e-mailed documents and print hard copies in case he may need them for complaints in the future about erroneous entries, billing discrepancies and errors in payment postings.

If he does not take this precautionary measure and his computer crashes or his e-mail file is corrupted and he finds himself in any of the situations mentioned above, he will have nothing on record to substantiate his complaint.

It will be his word against that of the company. Considering the weakness of our consumer laws and the inefficiency of our regulatory agencies, he would find himself at the losing end.

Thus, whatever trees are supposedly saved by the companies by using the e-mail system are, in a manner of speaking, cut by the customers for their paper value to print copies of the e-mailed documents. The claim of ecological concern sounds hollow.

It’s welcome news that the Department of Trade and Industry recently stated that it is coordinating with other government agencies and the private sector to ensure that consumers need not pay additional fees when they want to receive hard copies of their billing documents.


The move is consistent with its responsibility under the Consumer Act (Republic Act No. 7394) to protect consumers from unfair or unconscionable sales acts or practices.

An act or practice is deemed unfair or unconscionable “whenever the … supplier or seller, by taking advantage of the consumer’s physical or mental infirmity … or the general conditions of the environment or surroundings, induces the consumer to enter into a sales or lease transaction grossly inimical to the interests of the consumer or grossly one-sided in favor of the … supplier or seller.”

The companies concerned cannot be faulted for resorting to “paperless billing” to minimize their operational costs and citing so-called environmental concerns to justify their action.

After all, they are not charitable institutions and their reason for being is to earn profits, lots of them, for their stockholders and so every scheme available to accomplish that objective, no matter how morally flawed, is par for the course.

This is the same motivation behind the opposition by retail companies to the government’s earlier action to remove time limits on gift certificates, and by telcos on prepaid cards for mobile phones.

In both instances, the government showed the political will to protect and promote the interests of the consumers.

The prohibition on the imposition of periods of use on gift certificates is now a matter of law, while that of prepaid cards is simply an administrative order. Only time will tell when the lawmakers will have the guts to make that ban a legal obligation.

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Hopefully, the firmness in action that the government exhibited in the two unfair sales practices mentioned will be replicated on the issue of “paperless billings.”

TAGS: billing, Business

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