Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure which seeks to require companies to allow their consumers and users the option to choose and receive their billing statements between printed and electronic form without additional cost to them.
In filing Senate Bill No. 779, De Lima said requiring customers to move from paper to electronic billing becomes merely a ploy of the service providers to shift the burden of paying the costs of printing and mailing of the billing statement.
“The consumers have the right to be properly informed of the full details of the transaction and for them to be charged a premium cost for this information is a violation of their rights which can ultimately lead to fraudulent behavior on the part of the sellers,” she said.
Based on a media report, some telecommunications companies have been charging customers PhP50 per month for a copy of their paper billing despite resistance by their customers and users.
The lady Senator from Bicol also downplayed the claim by some telecommunication giants that by going paperless through e-billing is a way to preserve and conserve the environment because it would mean less cutting of trees.
“Going paperless seems to be the answer to the plight of our society in solving environmental problems. However, the presentation of the e-billing scheme as a leading pro-environment advocacy is misleading,” De Lima pointed out.
She cited certain studies which show that the paperless campaign contributes to increase in carbon emissions as indicated in an article by Environmental Leader, a leading trade publication that publishes energy, environmental and sustainability news.
According to the publication, the energy requirements of the increasing worldwide network of servers which are necessary to store all information has a significant and increasing carbon footprint, adding that “electronic document storage must be recognized as delivering efficiency, but not sustainability.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, also cited recent surveys which revealed that consumers still opt to print their bills at home, which defeats the purpose of initiating payments through e-billing.
According to her, the present Republic Act No. 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, might need to be amended to shield the interests of the consumers, promote their general welfare and establish ethical standards of conduct for business and industry.
Under Senate Bill No. 779, Article 51-A under RA 9394 should include a provision prohibiting companies from charging consumers and users who opt to receive their monthly billing in printed form.
De Lima’s measure gives consumers an option to select the method to receive their billing statements and other transaction documents regardless of the value of the product or services involved in the transaction.