Energy customers hit with controversial fee
Exclusive: Consumers will be slapped with a paper statement fee after one of the nation's biggest energy retailers did an about face and is reintroducing the despised charge.
EnergyAustralia has 1.5 million residential customers and applicable customers will soon be charged a $1.69 per statement to receive their bill in the post.
The move is hoped to push more customers into receiving cheaper electronic statements.
Customers could be hit with costs of more than $20 per year if they receive monthly bills by snail mail.
It comes just two years after the retailer dumped the controversial charge, when the retailer then said many customers did not like these charges.
National Seniors Australia's spokesman Ian Henschke slammed the new charge and said "it discriminates against those who don't have a computer".
"We urge anyone who doesn't have a computer to contact the company that charges for a paper bill and ask for an exemption by explaining their situation," he said.
"If there is to be any fee then it should only be on basic cost recovery for the postage and printing."
EnergyAustralia said the $1.69 charge includes the cost to produce, pack, print and send a paper bill.
They said it costs just $0.05 to produce an electronic one.
EnergyAustralia said about 15 per cent of their customers receive paper statements.
But Mr Henschke said "it seems a lot" given a postage stamp only costs $1.10.
"A paper bill is 2000 per cent more expensive to produce than an electronic one," EnergyAustralia's chief customer officer Mark Collette said.
"The decision several years ago to remove the paper bill charge was done with the best of intentions in the belief we could absorb the costs.
"Since then the cost of sending nearly 12 million sheets of paper has gone up, today making it unsustainable and no longer fair."
Customers who fall into the vulnerable category including concession-card holders and those on the company's hardship program are exempt from the fee.
EnergyAustralia recently had a dramatic 50 per cent fall to its profit levels and last year announced a $1.2 billion writedown to its retail business.
Energy comparison website Canstar Blue's spokesman Simon Downes said while the fee won't be popular among bill payers, they "should be much more concerned about the actual energy rates they're paying".
"It's frustrating to be charged simply for receiving a bill, so don't be afraid to take your business elsewhere if your retailer does it," he said.
Rival energy retailers including Origin and AGL charge a $1.75 paper statement fee for selected customers but some exemptions apply.
EnergyAustralia's charge begins from April 6.
In NSW energy retailers are no longer able to charge a fee to those who want to receive their bill in the mail.