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Energy Consumers Suffer Digital Divide – Online Paperless Billing Means Cheaper Bills

By David Holmes on September 10, 2009

The internet has revolutionised how people go about their everyday business – from supermarket shopping and banking to booking flights or checking the weather, the internet makes almost everything easier.

Paperless billing brings cheaper billsMany people build large social networks online and even find partners, so it is hardly surprising energy companies have provided fast and effective online sign up and account management services. However, those who are not online or prefer to pay their bills by cash or cheque are missing out on far more than just Twittering – they are paying a larger premium for their energy.

Because the digital age has revolutionised so many services, companies have found they can save considerable sums of money by switching to online only services. Of course, in the case of energy companies this would not be a viable option because energy is a product that everybody needs, so its availability cannot be refused to those who are not online. Nevertheless, many energy companies do penalise their offline customers by providing greater incentives, discounted energy prices and bonuses to those who sign up online and manage their bills digitally.

Recent research published by uSwitch for The Daily Telegraph newspaper has suggested energy consumers who pay their bills quarterly by cash or cheque are paying on average £224 more than those who have signed up to the same gas and electricity services online. Whilst Ofgem claims around 1.3 million British households have signed up online, just under 14 million consumers continue to pay by standard credit. This discrepancy, which is no doubt costing energy companies vast sums of money, could explain why they apparently want to urge more customers to sign up online for cheaper prices.