Letters: Judith Donovan, August 21, 2015

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According to recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics, there are approximately five million people in the UK (14 per cent of all UK households) who have never used the internet.

The East of England alone is home to 501,000 such people. The figures increase significantly for the most vulnerable groups within our society, such as the elderly. This doesn’t account for the further millions of people who simply do not have digital skills or confidence needed to manage sensitive financial information safely online. It also ignores the many thousands of disabled people (and their carers) whose often fluctuating physical abilities mean that managing their affairs online is often impractical or indeed impossible.

Despite these figures, many UK businesses such as banks, utility providers and telecoms companies have put more and more emphasis on digital communication as part of their approach to customer services. Banks have encouraged customers to switch to online-only accounts. Energy companies offer lower costs if you abandon the traditional paper bill. Even the Government is keen to push as many public services as possible online. All of these changes have been based on the assumption that it will be faster and easier.

Many would have you believe that people who don’t want to manage their affairs online represent an insignificant minority. These people are painted as luddites clinging on to an outdated system.

The Keep Me Posted campaign is dedicated to making sure that everyone has a choice in how they receive bills and statements from their providers, and aren’t financially penalised for needing or wanting to manage their affairs by post. We have found that most of us believe this should be a basic consumer right. Our extensive research has also found that even people who are digitally capable tend to manage their affairs better if they communicate with their provider via post.

We must protect the rights of all consumers and make sure we don’t apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to something as essential as customer communication with vital services.

Judith Donovan

Chairman of Keep Me Posted