Most U.S. Consumers Want the Option to Receive Paper Bills and Statements

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 07/31/2013

72% Agree Print and Paper can be a Sustainable Way to Communicate, according to Two Sides Survey

CHICAGO (July 31, 2013)  - As pressure to go paperless from banks, utilities, telecommunications companies and other service providers grows, a majority of U.S. consumers wants to keep the option to receive paper bills and statements, according to survey results published today by Two Sides.  More than six in 10 consumers say they would not choose a provider that does not offer paper bills and statements, and 88% want to be able to switch between electronic and paper bills without difficulty or cost.  The survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers was conducted for Two Sides in June by research firm Toluna. 

"While e-billing can be very convenient and internet delivery is now commonplace, it's clear that U.S. consumers like paper bills and statements and don't want to be pushed into electronic-only communications," says Two Sides President Phil Riebel.  "More than eight in 10 believe that cost savings are the driving force behind the 'go paperless' marketing hype, and many are suspicious of marketing claims that going paperless will 'save trees' or 'protect the environment.'  In fact, 50% of those surveyed said they either did not believe such claims, felt misled by them or questioned their validity." 

"Even though half of survey respondents believe that reducing environmental impacts is one of the reasons companies are switching to electronic billing, 72% also believe that print on paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when produced and used responsibly," Riebel says.  "It's also important to note that more than one-third of survey participants reported that they print some or all of their electronic bills at home, so the claim that e-bills are paperless really isn't true in many cases."

Beyond the fact that most consumers want the option of paper bills, as many as 30% of Americans are not online including 65% of seniors who don't own computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011).  Forcing people to go paperless or pay added fees for paper bills and statements disenfranchises a significant part of the population.

"When it comes to billing, consumer choice should not be a casualty of the digital revolution," Riebel says.  "The American public has spoken, and billing companies that don't listen risk losing business.  Those who continue to use unsubstantiated environmental claims as a smokescreen for reducing costs also risk greater scrutiny by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)."

Last year, Two Sides initiated an educational campaign to end greenwashing related to paperless billing.  The organization is having success working directly with leading U.S. companies to develop marketing messages that follow best practices for environmental marketing as outlined in the FTC's Green Guides.  

"We fully understand the advantages of electronic billing," Riebel says.  "We just want companies to stop misleading consumers by using vague and unsubstantiated environmental claims and to continue offering no-cost paper options to people who say they want and need them."

Overview of Survey Results

  • 64% of consumers say they would not choose a company that did not offer a paper bill option.
  • 72% agree that print and paper can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate if responsibly produced, used and recycled.
  • 50% of consumers either do not believe, feel misled by or question the validity of claims like 'Save Trees, Go Paperless' and 'Go Green, Go Digital.'
  • Over 84% of people agree that e-billing and e-statements are being promoted to save costs.
  • 91% of consumers say they are unwilling to pay for paper bills.
  • 44% prefer to receive bills by postal mail only.
  • 59% of consumers would refuse to switch to electronic bills and statements or would not take action when asked to do so. 
  • 50% of consumers read their bills and statements received both electronically and by postal mail; only 15% read bills which they receive by email only. 
  • 34% of consumers are clearly 'home printers' with 20% printing up to 20% of their bills and 8% printing between 80% and 100% of their bills. 66% don't print out any bills at home.

The full survey report is available to Two Sides members at http://www.twosides.us/Members-Only-Page

This Two Sides survey reaffirms consumer attitudes revealed in similar surveys conducted by other organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom including Consumers for Paper Options, Two Sides U.K. and Keep Me Posted.

About Two Sides

Two Sides (www.twosides.us) is an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper.  Two Sides is active worldwide and has more than 1,000 members that span the entire print and paper supply chain, including pulp and paper producers, paper distributors, ink and chemical manufacturers, printers, envelope manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, publishers and postal operators.  For more information about Two Sides, please contact Phil Riebel at 1-855-896-7433 or pnr@twosides.info.