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Campaign to stop fees for hard copies of bills and official statements -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Increasingly people are relying on emails and other electronic forms of communication to pay their bills and receive official statements.

Many companies now charge fees if people want these documents sent to them in hard copy.

It's far from ideal for the mostly poor and elderly who make up the large percentage of Australians who don't have access to the internet.

So a number of community groups have now banded together to support a campaign to get corporations to drop these fees.

Michael Edwards reports.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: It's common to find younger Australians who use the internet to conduct their personal business, be it checking their bank accounts or paying bills.

Twenty-year-old Mitchell tells me does almost everything online.

MITCHELL: I think it's more easy to keep organised. Rather than keeping all the files, you just have it all on a document, in document form, and just in folders in your computer hard drive.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: What sort of statements, what sort of things do you get?

MITCHELL: Banks statements, you know, phone bills, stuff like that.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Twenty-two-year-old Andy is the same.

How do you get all of your bank statements and your phone bills and everything like that?

ANDY: By email. Just they send as email to my email box and I check it.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Do you get sent letters as well, or do you need a bill or a piece of paper?

ANDY: I have got, I think I have got some letters from the bank, but actually I didn't, but actually I didn't see it. I just left them in the box, because I hope I just check the email, so I think letter is useless.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But it's not so easy for the millions of Australians who don't have access the internet.

KELLIE NORTHWOOD: To an affordability perspective, we have the World Economic Forum scores Australia's ICT capability as the lowest scoring country in the category of affordability for internet access.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: That's Kellie Northwood who is heading the Keep Me Posted campaign.

KELLIE NORTHWOOD: We also have 57 per cent of households in Australia with an income less than $40,000 don't have internet in their homes.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And she explains that those with the lowest rates of internet access are the poor, the elderly and Indigenous people.

These people need hard copies of bills and other official statements to keep track of their business and they're increasingly being forced to pay for them.

KELLIE NORTHWOOD: We've seen some companies come out with $1.25, $1,75, $2.50, $3.20. It's is getting up into the top end.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And getting rid of these fees is why the Keep Me Posted campaign has been set up. Launching at Parliament House in Canberra today, Keep Me Posted wants corporations to reconsider charging for hard copies of their documents.

Kellie Northwood says the fees target society's vulnerable and they're just not fair.

KELLIE NORTHWOOD: It's just irresponsible. So we need to sort of call on companies, the big end of town, to put consumers first in this regard.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Keep Me Posted campaign has the backing of aged care groups, unions and politicians, including the independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

NICK XENOPHON: I mean the fact that there are four million Australians who live in households without internet access is a big issue.

Why should these people, particularly senior citizens, be impacted in this way? It really does seem to be quite discriminatory and counterproductive.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Keep Me Posted campaign says similar efforts in countries including Canada, Germany and France have resulted in law changes which protect consumers from charges for billing or statement information.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Michael Edwards with that report.