A Funny Kind of Progress
It is with interest that I read about Keep Me Posted, a new campaign set up to protect the interests of consumers as banks and utilities encourage – or should that be coerce? – customers to move to paperless billing (see page 8). Inevitably, its prime movers are those with a vested interest in hard copy communications, among them Royal Mail and the Post Office. But that shouldn’t detract from the message that not everyone wants to give up paper bills and statements. Disadvantaged and elderly customers who have yet to embrace digital communications shouldn’t be penalised for choosing to receive a paper bill. Sadly, that is what is happening.
Daily life throws up many other examples of how those without access to computers or mobile phones are being marginalised, none more irritating than the replacement of coin-operated parking meters with phone-based systems that make it impossible to park legally without a mobile phone. Such systems have obvious benefits for parking authorities and sometimes for the person parking – as long as they are driving their usual car, can remember which bit of plastic they registered with, still have that card and haven’t forgotten their mobile phone. Cash has its drawbacks, too. But to replace one flawed system with another is a funny kind of progress.
Business Infohas always championed the use of technology to reduce costs and streamline business processes on the basis that doing so benefits an enterprise and its customers. Perhaps, it is now time to stand up for the 20% who are inconvenienced by the digitisation of daily life. I am all in favour of pay-by-phone parking/electronic invoicing, but only if I still have the option to pay by cash/receive a paper bill. When that choice is taken away, I am on the side of benign inefficiency.
Have you encountered any examples of draconian digitisation that have made things harder for you or anyone you know? If so, please give us the details so that we can name and shame the perpetrators.