Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses

How Long Should Companies Make E-Bills Available? 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the forever-billed dept.
theodp writes "If you say goodbye to paper and hello to green, you may learn first-hand that no good deed goes unpunished. Try to pay your final Verizon Wireless bill online after switching carriers, for example, and don't be surprised if you get a sorry-Dave-I'm-afraid-I-can't-do-that reply. Other vendors may curtail e-Bill services 30 days after you end service. And a promise of access to up to seven years of paperless statements is somewhat empty if you'll be cutoff as soon as you no longer have an account. With more-and-more companies enticing consumers to go paperless, how long a period of time should the records be made available online? Should it extend beyond the life of an account?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Long Should Companies Make E-Bills Available?

Comments Filter:
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:20AM (#26369315)
    ... i bet they are still available.
    • Yes, they're still available... For a price. I just found out that my bank stores bills, balance sheets etc important information only for 18 months. After that I can for sure get those records, but it'll cost me 50 / month (balance sheets). Nice cost, eh. Stock exchange information is even more expensive. So they do for sure keep records, but you can't access those for free. That's why I store everything yearly on my own server and take backups.
      • For a price. I just found out that my bank stores bills, balance sheets etc important information only for 18 months

        My small town credit union has every single statement I've ever received since 1993 available through their online banking system. They only keep 12 months of transactions online under the various accounts but if you go into eStatements you can see every single one since your account was opened.

        Gotta admit that's kinda cool.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FiloEleven (602040)

          That is exactly the kind of service I am looking for. My old bank was recently taken over, and neither of their websites allowed me to view anything more than the past month of transactions. In addition to that disservice, the new bank got rid of the surprisingly wonderful e-banking site used by the old bank, replacing its user-friendly, intuitive interface with a shitty homegrown classic ASP checkbox-n-submit-ridden mess that doesn't support half the functionality of the old one. Not only that, but my a

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:28AM (#26370095) Journal

      Well of course they're still available. I called my Discover Card one time to look-up old statements from three years ago, and they were not available online, so they politely mailed me printouts. There was no charge.

      As for going paperless, I've not done it because I'd probably forget to pay the bill! ;-)
      Receiving that paper in the mail is a convenient reminder.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        That is actually what I do. When possible I switch to a summary bill, so it is a small envelope, and use that as a reminder to pay my bill. I pay them all online. I should probably download my statements However i am still trying to figure out why would verizon and the IRS. if your using your personal cell phone for some business then you should be making better records anyway for that business.

        If your not, what else are you forgetting that the IRS will ream you apart for?

      • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:58AM (#26370521) Homepage

        I thought this eBill thing was a neat idea when it first came out years ago for one of my monthly services. So I signed up for it. There was an error in my billing a few months later, and I called and had it corrected. Instead of showing up as a correction on my following billing statement, they had changed the original incorrect bill. Looking at my online account, everything seemed as if it had never had an error.

        I canceled eBill immediately and refuse it from all other vendors now. I want this information for my own records, and I don't want them being the one who controls it and gets to rewrite history in case there was a problem.

        I'd consider it if they could email me a PDF of the same document that comes as a paper bill. They can put all those other bells and whistles on too if they want, but I want a copy in my possession that they don't have access to change, without having to remember to save it out by hand every month, and in a format that gives me the legal leverage I need to be able to prove the document came from them (eg, email headers on the email with the attachment on a 3rd party mail server such as GMail).

        EBilling is a way for your service provider to control history, and to deny you access to information which might condemn them should they screw up in some serious way. I need better control over this than ebilling provides.

      • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @08:41AM (#26370883)

        As for going paperless, I've not done it because I'd probably forget to pay the bill!

        Heh, it's exactly the opposite for me. When I have a paper bill, I remember that I need to pay the bill, but never to actually do it. I'm always remembering "Oh yeah, I need to send that check out!" while I'm at work. I've even had an envelope with a check in it sit on my counter for weeks... all ready to go, I just needed to remember to take it to a mailbox.

        With e-bill, I can accommodate my stupid brain, and pay it when I remember to do it, instantly. ;)

  • by Bunyip Redgum (641801) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:31AM (#26369365)

    They should provide access as long as one might reasonably need it which is at least as long as the statute of limitations give one to take legal action.

    • by houghi (78078)

      They should provide it as long as legally required to keep the data. Yes that might be 30 years in some cases.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        30? I doubt that. When I worked for JCPenney I had the task of disposing of old receipts. We had an entire room filled with boxes which were stuffed with register tape. The law required 7 years; anything older was tossed into the dumpster.

        • by houghi (78078)

          As your signature shows, you are aware there are other countries then just the USofA. So there it would be 7. Where it is required to keep for 30 years, it should be 30. Some countries say 5, other perhaps 10.

          Just look at how long the hardware copies should be kept and then just do the same for the rest. That way there is no doubt.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Thunderstruck (210399)

            As your signature shows, you are aware there are other countries then just the USofA.

            One might also note that each of the 50 United States has its own separate statute of limitations.

    • by unassimilatible (225662) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:40AM (#26370413) Journal
      Didn't we just have this discussion? [slashdot.org]

      It's called a contract people. Are finally at the point where there is just no such thing as freedom of contract, and therefor contracts no longer mean anything? There is no duty on "the little guy" to actually download and save his own records, after choosing a paperless billing? So again we are calling for the nanny state, that which is so vilified when it tries to do the things government was founded for - protect me and my shit from bad guys, foreign and domestic - to intervene in private contracts because we don't happen to like one of the contractors? So it's a horrible slippery slope to force a rapist to turn over his e-mail account, to drain a mosquito of blood to catch a car thief, or to use technology to catch a terrist outside of the country. That's going to lead to all of our civil liberties being trampled.

      But go ahead nanny state, go right on in and arbitrarily intervene in private contracts. Because we here at Slashdot are libertarians for us, and statists for the other guy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's called a contract people. Are finally at the point where there is just no such thing as freedom of contract, and therefor contracts no longer mean anything?

        Based on some recent dealings with with large companies, I'm becoming convinced that no, contracts don't mean anything any more.

        Things like claiming someone owes them more money even after they've fulfilled the letter of the contract, then when it gets to court, backpedalling and saying they made a mistake, but it's too late now because they've already sold the debt to a debt collector. At that point, under the law here, *someone* has to pay the debt collector, and guess who has a pair of big guys come arou

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by russotto (537200)

          Things like claiming someone owes them more money even after they've fulfilled the letter of the contract, then when it gets to court, backpedalling and saying they made a mistake, but it's too late now because they've already sold the debt to a debt collector. At that point, under the law here, *someone* has to pay the debt collector

          Err, no. If the debt that the debt collector bought is found to be invalid, the piece of paper the debt collector has is worth as much as a share of Washington Mutual. That's

  • I had Verizon DSL and POTS. I decided to go with the T-Mobile @home VoIP service and dropped my POTS with Verizon. I kept getting paper bills which I would then go to my bank site and billpay. About 4 months later my DSL service dropped and I got a nice check from Verizon for the exact amount that I had paid them the last 4 months. Seems that they changed my account number and I didn't notice so I was canceled. I then find out that you can't pay for just DSL at the Verizon stores but must call a third

    • Thank you for sharing your story.

      I now know that if I want to disconnect my POTS, I should not bother, because Verizon will likely frak it up. Instead I should just move to the cheap $4/month plan. (Besides it's good to have a physical line in the event of power outage.)

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        I now know that if I want to disconnect my POTS, I should not bother, because Verizon will likely frak it up.

        YMMV but when I canceled POTS and went to dry loop I didn't have any problems. They did make me "cancel" the DSL and "reinstall" it but my downtime was minimal. Maybe I just got lucky.

        Instead I should just move to the cheap $4/month plan

        Our lifeline plan has gone from $8 to $10 to $15 in the last three years. They've also added a bunch of fees for regional long distance and long distance. By the time you add on the FCC fees and taxes it's over $30/mo PLUS $0.09/ea for your local calls. I'm trying to talk the girlfriend into ditching it and porting the nu

  • by DaHat (247651) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:36AM (#26369395) Homepage

    For years any time I had a bill, statement, tax form or other document I thought "You know... there is a remote possibility I might just want that in a year or 9"... I'd do a quick Print to PDF and bang... I've got my own copy without any need to wonder 'how long should they keep it for me'.

    Sure... the hard drive it's own could die, but because in this horrible thing called self reliance... I take steps to make sure that I will still have access to copies just in case without having to ask such questions or worry about hard drive death or house fires.

    Personal responsibility... try it!

    • "Personal responsibility... try it!"

      Oh stop being stupid with that red herring!
      This isn't about "personal responsibility".
      It's about transfer of effort and risk from the company billing you to you yourself.
      And about companies removing a service that they have led you to expect will be available. This person is expecting to pay their last bill online, like they expected to (and succeeded in) paying their previous bills online.

      • by pla (258480)
        Oh stop being stupid with that red herring! This isn't about "personal responsibility".

        I count as about as anti-corporate as they come, and even I have to say the burden of keeping your personal records for long-term reference doesn't rest on the companies involved. Once you pay your bill, end of transaction. If you want a copy, keep a copy.


        It's about transfer of effort and risk from the company billing you to you yourself.

        Effort they need to expend on a non-customer? Think of that from the rev
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Foolicious (895952)
      I'm making an assumption that you're the "Brendan" in your sig. So given said sig and the site to which it links that (in a nutshell) makes a plea for people to give money to you (for your college debt), the whole personal responsibility thing sounds more like a line than an actual something one could try.
  • If it's a financial document, a record that may have tax reporting ramifications, or some other substantial document, it should be available indefinitely. I can accept having to make a request for an older record that has been archived by the system; as long as it's available within a week or so then I'm fine. But if we're going to rely on online billing and statements, we have to have a reasonable expectations that those important documents will be available for retrieval in the event we need them at some
    • "If it's a financial document, a record that may have tax reporting ramifications, or some other substantial document, it should be available indefinitely."

      Which is why you have them mail you a physical copy, instead of going paperless ... then you pay via the net, and your bank MAILS you your monthly statement. You have all the physical copies you need.

      Everyone keeps sending me these "switch to electronic billing" notices. They can go screw themselves. Not only are they NOT offering me an incentive

  • by shri (17709) <{shriramc} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:45AM (#26369429) Homepage
    Is it me or are people just whinging about the smallest thing? I fail to see why any institution that I've chosen not to do business with, should continue to serve me for free. If a paper trail is that important, print a copy of the bill and file it, or create PDF of the online bill and store it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asc99c (938635)

      Not being allowed to see the closing statement for your account is quite a big deal if you are unsure of the balance they want paying.

      As ISP I once used had a £40 account closure fee. I couldn't find it written down in any of the paper sign up documents, although it was in online terms and conditions (which the sign up contract said could be changed at any time). I suspected it was illegal to really do that, in the UK at least, so I just put a bar on the payments and paid off everything except

      • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:55AM (#26369713)

        Not being allowed to see the closing statement for your account is quite a big deal if you are unsure of the balance they want paying.

        I am still going through this with my phone company. They didn't send me the final bill then dropped the account with debt collectors. When I called up to request a bill they added a $5 charge and posted it to the wrong address, after putting me on hold for about an hour. A full day of my time later I finally got a correct payout figure from them; and it was worth a lot less than the lost income.

        Suffice to say, it's going to court this year to recover my lost income for spending a full day chasing the issue and not being able to work, for having to avoid getting listed on the bad credit register.

        • I have an unpaid bill on my credit report. It's no big deal since my score is still well over 900. Why did I not pay the bill? Because I got into the same problem as you did, but I ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort or cost (loss of one day's income) trying to track down the payment amount.

          I simply decided "If they are too lazy to mail me a final bill, then it sucks to be them," and I moved out of state. Customers have an obligation to pay bills, but corporations also have an obligation to ma

        • by jcarkeys (925469)
          And you think that the time and straight up costs of court will be greater than your one lost day chasing around a bill? Yeah, lemme know how that goes
          • Where I live you can claim all losses and costs incurred as a result of actually attending court. Also, there is an industry regulator which oversees such matters free of charge to me.

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      I fail to see why any institution that I've chosen not to do business with, should continue to serve me for free.

      The cost of keeping someone's statements online for a few months after they have closed their account is hardly going to be onerous, especially as they'll have to keep the data for five years anyway. To pull the plug the millisecond the account ends - even to the extent that some people are unable to ever view their final statement is simply shoddy, inconsiderate service.

      ...and don't play the "chosen to take your business elsewhere" card: many industries - especially banks - have consciously chosen a busin

  • by snowgirl (978879) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:45AM (#26369431) Journal

    I hate how people think that reducing paper will reduce environmental impact. Trees that are used for paper grow VERY fast, and even out here in the Pacific Northwest, in logging country, I've seen the clear cut fields, but what they don't show you, is across the road is a 5/10 year old forest that is already hella bigger than you ever thought trees could grow in 5/10 years. I dated an ex-logger for awhile, and he told me, "we cannot cut it down fast enough."

    If you want to save trees, DON'T WORRY ABOUT PAPER OR WOOD PRODUCTS, those industries cannot use the wood fast enough. What you DO want to worry about are the people CLEAR CUTTING RAIN FOREST LAND in order to grow enough crop in order to feed their family. Give subsidizes to every farmer near the rain forests to not go out clear cutting, and WOW! Deforestation problem solved.

    "Paperless is green" is a foul's quest. BTW, I also dated a guy working at a paper mill, toilet paper, and paper towels (even nice paper towels) are made from saw dust... the scrap that is left over from making lumber. They're actually using WASTE product to make their consumer products. So, again, use as much toilet paper as you want, we won't exceed available supplies of WASTE SAW DUST.

    • by Potor (658520)
      From Kimberly Clark's 2005 Sustainability Report [kimberly-clark.com]:

      Cellulose fiber is the primary raw material for our tissue products, and is also an important component in disposable diapers, training pants, feminine pads and incontinence care products. Cellulose fiber contained in our consumer products is either harvested from sustainably managed forestlands or derived from pre- and post-consumer wastepaper.

      Don't you think they would trumpet their use of saw dust if they in fact used it? I can't find any evidence on th

    • by hab136 (30884) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:26AM (#26369587) Journal

      "Paperless is green" is a foul's quest.

      A chicken's quest? Probably meant "fool", but it's funnier this way. :)

      Anyways the "paperless is green" idea isn't because we're going to run out of wood. Almost all paper is made from trees that are grown (and replanted and regrown) for that purpose. However turning that wood into paper and shipping it to the utility uses energy and money. Putting ink on the paper likewise isn't free, and mailing it (in postal trucks that burn gas) isn't free either.

      Whether you measure in total energy spent or dollars, it's cheaper to have online bills than mailing out paper statements. Most places let you download a PDF of what the paper statement would have been, giving you the efficiencies of online bills while still being able to have a copy of old bills (and print them on demand).

      Utilities push online billing because it saves them money; the fact that it also saves energy in the process and is more convenient for consumers is a win/win/win.

      • by snowgirl (978879) *

        Anyways the "paperless is green" idea isn't because we're going to run out of wood. Almost all paper is made from trees that are grown (and replanted and regrown) for that purpose. However turning that wood into paper and shipping it to the utility uses energy and money. Putting ink on the paper likewise isn't free, and mailing it (in postal trucks that burn gas) isn't free either.

        Pushing bits around still costs money as well. Plus, in order to maintain their records, you need to have a datacenter up. I don't know about the economies of scale of the two systems, but just saying that you're saving the environment because of less paper doesn't necessary agree. Back when I was a child, my mother did the cost/benefits of disposable diapers vs cloth diapers, and found that the benefits of both wash each other out, and you're best off just using what you'd prefer to use. She elected th

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Utilities push online billing because it saves them money; the fact that it also saves energy in the process and is more convenient for consumers is a win/win/win.

        I moved to Germany recently. My utility has a great idea but might not work elsewhere. They estimate my utility usage based on last years usage. They bill me a monthly amount. At the end of the year if I used more they bill me for it, if I used less they refund it. I receive one "bill" a year. It really isn't a bill as it is automatically deposited/charged to my bank account.

        I realize a lot of people aren't as trusting as is required in Germany (all my bills are automatically withdrawn, ie. the companies

        • Well, maybe you can trust a German gas company, but if we are talking Verizon?, it would be hard to come up with a more dishonest, greedy, evil, self serving, mean spirited, and arrogant company anywhere on this planet.

        • Most gas and electric utilities in the US have plans you can sign up for very similar to that.

          As for giving another company my banking info so they can just take what they want from my account, I won't ever do that. Do you realize that in the US, if that company starts having billing "errors" the only way you can stop them from continuing to access your bank account once you gave them permission is to close the bank account. Most banks will not prevent the company from continuing to access your bank accou

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Here in the usa, the corporations are flat out evil. They do everything they can to rob the customer, and the blatant incompetence will have them removing money from your account when they have no right to do so, and cant get in trouble for it.

          We cant trust Sears(a very large national store) to deliver a TV unbroken and own up to it and make it right. We cant trust our cellphone companies to be honest. We cant trust our gas or electric company to be accurate.

          All in all they get to run rampant, and we get

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Psychotria (953670)

      If you want to save trees, DON'T WORRY ABOUT PAPER OR WOOD PRODUCTS, those industries cannot use the wood fast enough.

      I respect your belief, but I think you're wrong. Those plantations that grow the trees that you say will supply paper endlessly are, I hate to say it, finite in area. Therefore, the paper they can produce is finite. Now, I guess the other thing you're saying is that they're plantation trees being felled. Now, that is correct. But before it was a plantation it was probably a native forest. Now, those forests were cleared many years ago, so arguing the point now is... pointless--they're plantation trees now.

      • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:10AM (#26370029)

        Ah the old "it's all your fault because you live in a wealthy country."
        There has to be someone close at hand to blame.
        It couldn't stop at the shitty governments in south America. No.
        It can't stop at the overly powerful companies. No.
        God forbid.
        No, it has to be shifted until the person you're talking to is being held responsible because he walked past one of the above on the street one day.
        Why? because *random person in the first world* hasn't hunted down and shot the CEO of Mcdonalds? Because he's occasionally paid for services from the company?

        So any transfer of money now makes you responsible for all evil done by everyone who touches that money from that point on?
        Are you responsible for rapes committed by that weird guy working at costco? If you hadn't given money to the store where he worked in exchange for that product you wanted they mightn't have been able to pay him which might have meant he wouldn't have been able to afford the van he abducted his victims with!
        YOU MURDERER!

        There's good reason to shift the focus on to people who are doing the slash and burn. He didn't demonise them, he recognised that they have a very good reason to do what they're doing. And in the end they're the people who have to be helped if we want to do something about the problem. Going after the CEO of McDonald's might have the whole David vs Goliath feel but in this case beating the Goliath would do sweet fuck all. Another company would step in to fill their place, or 3 companies owned through the philippines would step in and do the same thing and sell on to a 4th based in the Bahamas which would sell on to McDonalds or Walmart or ten thousand independent little bars, cafes, restaurants and diners which are not part of any giant and easy to complain about company.

        • by snowgirl (978879) *

          There's good reason to shift the focus on to people who are doing the slash and burn. He didn't demonise them, he recognised that they have a very good reason to do what they're doing. And in the end they're the people who have to be helped if we want to do something about the problem. Going after the CEO of McDonald's might have the whole David vs Goliath feel but in this case beating the Goliath would do sweet fuck all. Another company would step in to fill their place, or 3 companies owned through the philippines would step in and do the same thing and sell on to a 4th based in the Bahamas which would sell on to McDonalds or Walmart or ten thousand independent little bars, cafes, restaurants and diners which are not part of any giant and easy to complain about company.

          People really don't even read usernames do they...

        • by snowgirl (978879) *

          You entirely missed the point of my article. Since when do socialist subsidized paid to individuals in order to prevent them from needing to slash and burn place the blame on those individuals?

          Please note what I'm talking about this time. I'm saying that the multinational class war is the cause of slash and burn, not the individuals trying to meek an existence by.

          I don't blame in anyway those who slash and burn the trees themselves, they're doing what they need to in order to survive. Rather, if _WE_ wan

        • Wow. Good job at arguing against me and at the same time supporting what I said.
        • Your post is confusing and lacking logic.

          The idea of looking at yourself, instead of blaming others, is an idea that goes all the way back to the Roman Empire. "Do not criticize the splinter in your neighbor's eye when you have a log in your own eye. Instead remove the log from your own eye first." Putting that in the context of trees:

          We tell places like Brazil to stop clearcutting, and yet WE happily clearcutted our forests in the U.S. and turned them into farmland. We're basically telling Brazil, "Do

      • by snowgirl (978879) *

        I respect your belief, but I think you're wrong. Those plantations that grow the trees that you say will supply paper endlessly are, I hate to say it, finite in area. Therefore, the paper they can produce is finite. Now, I guess the other thing you're saying is that they're plantation trees being felled. Now, that is correct. But before it was a plantation it was probably a native forest. Now, those forests were cleared many years ago, so arguing the point now is... pointless--they're plantation trees now. Also, what happens when those areas can no longer supply the growing consumption of paper and other wood-derived products? They'll have to clear some more native forest for more plantations.

        lololololol, "plantations". No, these are new growth forests. They are not "plantations" no one waters them, no one irrigates them, they are self-sustaining forests. If we walked away from these replanted forests, they would grow just fine, like they always did, and what are we replanting them with? The exact same trees that were there to begin with.

        Perhaps I really should take some pictures of these forests, etc, and show people what "clear cut" logging actually looks like... if anything, for only a mo

        • They are not "plantations" no one waters them, no one irrigates them...

          Who said anything about irrigating?

          If we walked away from these replanted forests, they would grow just fine, like they always did, and what are we replanting them with? The exact same trees that were there to begin with.

          You keep say "replanting" and "regrown". Nature doesn't need replanting. I actually don't know what you're talking about. But in your original comment you said:

          Almost all paper is made from trees that are grown (and replanted and regrown)

          Places where things are purposefully grown (and replanted and regrown) are, by definition, plantations.

          The exact same trees that were there to begin with.

          The exact same trees. The exact same trees compared to what? Before they became plantations? I doubt you even really know what was there beforehand (i.e. BEFORE the plantation). If a clearcut plantation regrows int

          • Oops. Sorry snowgirl. You didn't say "purposefully grown (and replanted and regrown"... someone else did. I apoligise. But my overall argument still stands.
        • And by the way, snowgirl, this isn't personal. I am not some dope smoking hippy either. I just honestly think you've got it wrong. Which is why I mentioned the anecdotal comments your boy friends (who happened to work in the logging and paper industries) made; because you seem to believe what they said. Note the word 'anecdotal'. Yeah, it's very interesting what they said. Did they believe what they told you? Probably, but that is beside the point. For a start they are biased comments. Second, they were jus
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Psychotria (953670)

      Trees that are used for paper grow VERY fast

      Just out of curiosity, what species of tree are they growing?

    • I dated an ex-logger for awhile, and he told me, "we cannot cut it down fast enough."

      Use napalm. Trees don't surf.

      • by snowgirl (978879) *

        I dated an ex-logger for awhile, and he told me, "we cannot cut it down fast
            enough."

        Use napalm. Trees don't surf.

        Ok, more accurately, they _COULD_ cut it down fast enough... but they wouldn't be able to make a profit doing it... :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676)

      I hate how people think that reducing paper will reduce environmental impact.

      Why do you hate people thinking correctly? Regardless of the number of trees available, it still takes energy to make those sheets of paper, ship it to the consumer, and dispose of/recycle it once it's finished with. So, how does it not reduce environmental impact to use less paper?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by snowgirl (978879) *

        I hate how people think that reducing paper will reduce environmental impact.

        Why do you hate people thinking correctly? Regardless of the number of trees available, it still takes energy to make those sheets of paper, ship it to the consumer, and dispose of/recycle it once it's finished with. So, how does it not reduce environmental impact to use less paper?

        Ok, using less of anything is going to make a better environmental impact. The question is, where is money and time better spent? Should we spend money on datacenters, and power grids to handle new-age paperless societies in countries that do not have a negative tree-growth rate? Or should we focus on spending money where it can actually make a difference?

        Think of it this way... either I could be more environmental by buying a hybrid SUV and getting 30 miles per gallon instead of 7 miles per gallon, or I

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by squiggleslash (241428)

          Something to bear in mind. The data centers are going to run anyway. They're going to store the information on a computer anyway. It doesn't matter what the saving is for not having the bill printed, that will always be saved.

          The interesting thing is this was true forty years ago too. Your phone bill was processed by a mainframe and stored on massive loops of tape, but it was stored. Your bank records were stored on massive loops of tape, but they were stored. What's changed since then has been massive a

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      >>>Give subsidizes to every farmer near the rain forests to not go out clear cutting,

      Brazil and other rainforest countries argue: "You Americans and Europeans clear cut your trees to make room for farming. Why is it okay for you to do that, but not us?" And I agree with that question. The United States used to be one hufe forest east of the Mississippi, but we've turned it into farmland. It's hypocritical for us to clearcut our forests while telling other nations, Don't do what we do."

      Perh

  • Shouldn't there be some kind of legally defined minimum along with nice availability regulations? They make them keep records on everything else!
  • For the duration of the account, save all past bills. When the account is closed, give the consumer 30 days access to past bills, somehow. Also, perhaps the company should retain the bills for no less than 12 months after the account is closed, for legal or tax reasons.

    • For tax reason it must be kept for 10 years. I my memory serve well IRS can go to 10 years old declaration and ask for proofs.

    • It would have to be more than 30 days since
      1. the usual billing cycle is one month.
      2. bills usually have a "due date" several weeks in the future.

      3 months, or as long as there is is any balance (debit or credit), whichever is longer, would be the absolute minimum that would be workable.

  • In response to the tag 'forever'.

    I think we're getting too reliant on trusting other people to keep our data. Don't get me wrong, there should be a minimum (and maximum) length of time that 3rd parties keep records of our transactions... they're the 3rd parties transactions as well, after all.

    Expecting a 3rd party to keep records of transactions beyond a reasonable (or lawful) amount of time is, I think, crazy. 100, 50, or even 20 years ago this wasn't expected. Of course the third parties had to keep (pape

  • My bank gives me access to my last 12 statements online, and then charges £2 to mail any older statements. If I leave, I will lose access to my online statements as soon as the account is closed. I download, store as PDF and print them on a 6 monthly cycle. The last thing we need is for goverment to spend a large amount of money creating, passing and enforcing uneeded regulations when we are capable of seeing what the terms were before we sign up.

    Obviously if the item was something like a Credit C
  • Is there anything wrong with emailing the bill to the customer and letting them archive it (or not)? I know it's not secure, but neither is a piece of paper in the physical mail.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:17AM (#26369557) Journal

    Thanks to Moore's law, there is very little value in deleting records except in very extreme cases, or when the data itself acts as an un-necessary liability.

    If you assume that you have enough storage for the current year on hand, are you going to more-than double the amount of storage you need over the next 18 months? Very few business will say "yes" to this, and thus the cost of storing everything is DROPPING with each passing year, despite the ever rising amount of it.

    We recently upgraded one of our D2D backup arrays from 300 GB drives to 1.5 TB SATA drives. For less than the cost of the original array of 300 GB drives, we ended up with 5 times the storage space in just over 2 years, meaning that the cost of the old data is now 1/5 what it used to be. We were profitable keeping that data 2 years ago, so in a sense, we are 5x as profitable keeping that same information today!

    So why would we delete it?

    • by N1AK (864906)
      Although your comments on the cost of storage are accurate, I don't see the complete relevance to the issue at hand.

      Unless your are being paid to store data, storing data for users is a cost and thus not something you 'profit' on. To use your example as an example of storing statements for a finance account. To store customer statements you buy an array of 300GB drives, this costs you £5 per customer (Including all costs to run array, backup to seperate location, pay for data centre etc) and will
  • If someone sent you a paper bill that you wanted in the future would you expect them to re-send it on demand, as opposed to just filing the copy they already gave you? Why should the rules be any different just because the original copy was electronic?

    Here's a handy rule of thumb -- if you can see it in your browser, you can save it to your disk. Even if they don't provide a handy PDF format -- which many companies do -- you could generate a PDF locally, or even just save the HTML source. Heck, even if ther

  • by MessyBlob (1191033) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:27AM (#26369589)
    In my experience, paperless billing only cuts paper by about 20%. Companies and institutions that are savvy enough allow the switchover to paperless billing, are also savvy enough to have a continuous mailshot campaign. The result is that you are still mailbombed and sent changes to T&Cs, for example. The cynical view is that 'paperless billing' is Greenwash (go look that word up if you haven't seen it before) - it's really about saving the company money by not paying the third-party billing service.
  • "Paperless" or "Online" billing simply makes it entirely your own problem to remember to make the regular effort to access the billing information and print it off or save it (and back it up). It does not remove the requirement to keep your own archives for as long as you need them (which for financial information is as long as the taxman can ask for it!)
    Many companies can and will blame you when you don't have a copy of the billing information because you didn't download it or relied on them to keep it ava

  • Is anyone a bit bothered by a company fining, I mean charging, you to receive paper bills? Shouldn't the goal be to encourage without penalizing people to go paperless? Paper bills still have a use. It's a hard copy. No worries about digital decay.

    • by N1AK (864906)
      Are you against companies offering you a discount for not sending a paper bill? In all real terms it is the same thing. It costs a company money to print and post a document, if you don't require that service why should you be obliged to pay for it?
  • They should keep the statements online forever. And they should allow access to them forever.


    If they can't figure out how to do that, maybe the should ask for someone at google to help them.
  • I want my bills for two reasons:

    1) To ensure I'm being charged correctly.

    2) To act as proof if the company feels I haven't paid them/been charged right/whatever

    In case 1) I will chase them up pretty quickly if this occurs so the length isn't too important as long as it's reasonably long enough to get round to checking through the bill- 3 months would do but there's little reason they shouldn't hold them for a year or more as it's not expensive to hold them that long.

    In case 2) I don't mind how long as long

  • Forgive me, this is simply not brain surgery. A company sends an email to it soon to be ex-customer. You have 30 days to click the button in this email and have your entire service history sent to you in text, database, or spreadsheet format. You totally automate the process. The customer get's to choose, has 30 days to change his/her mind, can implement an instant solution by clicking a button in an email, and can choose the format by which the information is sent. Upon completion of the 30 days, the recor

  • It's a great service after all, but if they mail you the PDF or whatever I don't see why they should have to keep it available for you at all. Obviously it's in their best interest to do so to cut down on expensive support calls but I don't see why you should be entitled to it.

  • Last year I got a letter from my cellphone provider E-Plus (Germany) saying that if I would choose to opt for getting my monthly statements VIA EMAIL and no longer through the mail on a piece of paper I would get a 5 Euro (yeah FIVE) credit on my next bill. I thought "this can't be right" and started scanning through the fine print.

    Turns out, the fineprint states that the electronically transmitted bill is in fact not a legal document, only acts as a representation of cost (for consumer convenience) and
  • That's all I gotta say!

  • I avoid e-bills as much as possible. Companies are stupid, decision makers in big companies are stupid. These systems aren't thought out.
    E-bills need to be there for 7+ years regardless of my status of a customer or there status as a going business.

    To me the real solution is that e-bills should really mean a PDF of what would be snail mailed is actually e-mail to you every month. That way I can drop the attachment into a folder and I have it even if provider X goes out of business.

  • What I do for the services I have which use ebilling is save a copy as a PDF. I keep a folder on my hard drive for each service I've got and their associated bills inside. Coupled with proper backups, I can go back as far as I'd like.

  • and if you don't own a Mac search Sourceforge for PDF Creator and be smart, save them yourself!
  • by GTarrant (726871) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @08:45AM (#26370911)
    I had this issue when I canceled my cell phone with Sprint a few years ago. I was getting paperless bills, and paying online. However, the instant I canceled, even though I knew I would have one final pro-rated bill, my account on their website was locked out.

    Calling them to ask to send a bill on paper was useless - once they hear you aren't a customer and aren't interested in signing up again you're put into the "On Hold Forever" queue.

    Got an email a month later saying I hadn't paid, but of course every email says "Do not reply to this email - if you have questions, log into your account", which didn't exist.

    I finally sent them a check for what my standard monthly bill is, knowing it was too much. Since then, for three years, they've been sending me a monthly statement, by snail mail, telling me they owe me about eight dollars. Every month, for three years. Just send me a check!

HOST SYSTEM NOT RESPONDING, PROBABLY DOWN. DO YOU WANT TO WAIT? (Y/N)

Working...