Advocates for older Australians call for choice over paperless bills

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Advocates for older West Australians say the ageing population should get more choice over how much of their life is online and should not be pushed towards paperless bills.

John Van Der Wielen, 74, got a shock in May this year when he was told he had received his last Telstra bill in the mail.

“I thought I’ll always get paper bills forever,” he said.

After his family showed him how to get set-up to receive bills on his phone, Mr Van Der Wielen called Telstra and visited his local shop in Bunbury in the South West of WA to try and switch back to receiving paper bills.

“[They said] that I was stuck with it,” he said.

While Mr Van Der Wielen said he has been trying to adapt to the new technology, he would still like the choice.

“I’ve been used to paper bills and everything on paper with me,” he said.

“I like to keep a copy of everything and file everything away so I can check things.

“This is all new technology to me. It’s a bit of a shock to the system.”

Mr Van Der Wielen’s daughter Tania Freeman said she and the rest of the family filed out a notebook to help remind their father of the steps involved to pay his bill.

“He’s lucky that he’s got myself, my brother and six grown up grandchildren that can help him out,” she said.

“I just worry for the ones that are out there that don’t have anyone to help them.”

Saving trees and reducing carbon

In a statement, Telstra said customers could request a paper bill via the Telstra app or in store.

“We’re not exactly sure what went wrong with Mr Van Der Wielen’s request, but we’ll investigate and follow up to assist him get this resolved,” said Telstra regional general manager Boyd Brown.

He said the move to paperless bills was better for the environment and mostly preferred by their customers.

“We sent 17 million paper bills to our customers last financial year, which equated to 4,155 trees and 2,500 tonnes of carbon emissions.”

Covid highlights internet divide

Council On The Ageing WA chief executive Christine Allen said older people should be given a choice of how much of their life is spent online.

She said the issue was brought to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns when people were told to stay inside and do shopping and pay bills online.

“What it did was highlight how many of them were not online,” Ms Allen said.

“Even those that were [online], the competency level for people that were expected to be proficient with technology is just really unreasonable and unrealistic.”

She says while the next generation may be technologically capable, there needs to be provisions available for those who are not.

“I think we have to avoid this discriminatory period,” Ms Allen said.

“Those of us that are not highly adept at using technology [should] still have the option or the choice to pay our bills or conduct our lives in a manner that suits us.”

(Original ABC Article)