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How green are you?

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How sincere are companies about going green when it comes to e-billing? Is it merely a PR exercise – or is it an attempt to pass costs on to customers, wonders Pastures Green.

Last year, a particular mobile phone service provider launched a campaign on paper saving with the apparent intention of “saving the environment”. The publicised reason for this campaign was to reduce the cutting of trees and the destruction of forests for the manufacture of paper used for hard copy bills sent to customers every month.

While that may have been a noble effort towards environmental conservation and reduction of pollution and waste, one customer feels that that good intention was taken a little too far.

A hectic, unpredictable daily schedule sometimes makes it extremely difficult to complete mundane tasks like paying mobile phone bills on time. Yet, for years, I have ensured that bills are paid faithfully albeit sometimes outside the stipulated time frame.

However, I kept receiving text and email messages from this particular mobile phone service provider to opt for e-billing to the point I felt coerced into accepting e-billing. This is completely unacceptable as customers should be given the choice to opt for e-billing or to simply continue receiving bills through the post.

The advantage of a hard copy bill is that one doesn’t need to go into email to look for a bill. You could be swamped with emails and e-bills could easily be lost amongst the thousands of messages. Then, there is the problem of not having time even to look at the bill due to other more pressing incoming messages that may require urgent attention.

Moreover, should the internet connection be “down” or if there is an assigment to attend to offline, it is most likely that the bill will be lost amongst all other emails. It may even end up in the ‘spam box’ which will be deleted in due course.

A hard copy bill can be looked at during free time, thus avoiding the stress that can occur when looking at email. Sometimes, faster communications can give people palpitations.

Besides, it is convenient to have a hard copy itemised bill to know what one is paying for. The argument may be raised that e-bills can be printed out there and then, but in reality, not every one owns a printer and not everyone may have time to print bills out. Printing also consumes resources – electricity, printer, ink and paper – which comes to the same thing; except that the use of resources and the costs are passed on to the customer and not incurred by the mobile phone service company.

Office workers will know that sometimes a day’s work ends up being work you did not necessarily plan to do. Enquiries and emergencies arise, colleagues need help, etc – at the end of the day, what was intended to be done may not be finished or sometimes not even started. So, do you still have time or even the urge to look at email that could take you hours to plough through?

People who have the means may decide to surf the net at home, but not everyone lives by the same routine. Some may prefer to spend their evenings and holidays with their families rather than stuck in front of the computer. It is actually socially more healthy to spend time with family and friends, outside working hours; in some cases people should make time for this.

So, if this mobile service company implies that customers who do not prefer e-billing are not eco-concious or ‘helping to save the planet’, there is one question they should answer first before pointing fingers at customers and trying to make them feel guilty: Is this mobile phone service provider prepared to print its bills on recycled paper to genuinely meet the challenge of being eco-friendly?

How sincere are such companies about going green? Is it merely a public relations exercise? Or is this ‘going green’ campaign an effort by the telcos to pass on costs to their customers?

Incidentally, the campaign seems to have ended and thankfully, I have not received anymore accusatory messages. It would be good if companies and customers thought long and hard on alternative means to defend the planet’s environment than to go out on eco-forays like Don Quixote fighting the windmill!

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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14 Jan 2011 8.32am

Hello There
I think e-billing is a noble effort by any service provider company. This ensure less paper is used. I still see a lot of paper being thrown in the dustbins, even those just used on one side. In my office, I personally reuse papaer for printing. This is because we have a lot of customers who audit us and we need to print documents to show evidence. ( ironically I have not come across any customer who has yet to tell us not to print hard copies, but they insist that we are ISO14001 certified!!)

I also propose that All Malaysian have an email id issued to us, just like the NRIC number issued to us. This email ID should be for dealing with bills, summons, income tax etc

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x