Paperless fallacies

Virtually every organisation that is required to provide a consumer with a statement of events (bank, credit card provider, utilities, etc.) have persuaded / coerced customers into going ‘paperless’. Rather than having to routinely open multiple envelopes and then file the documents somewhere, the beguiling argument is that they can all be left in the cloud, ready for access anywhere and anytime on mobile devices or a desktop.

The consumer is easily seduced by this myth, but there is a flaw in the inherent assumptions. If, for whatever reason, the account is terminated (changing a credit card for example) , then access to such documents is summarily denied.

In some cases, this may not be material, but in others it may well be more serious. For example, if the documents were required for tax returns, the inability to satisfy the authorities without evidence may be problematic (and expensive), even if the data could be replicated. The more stressing case is following a death when access to key data are denied pending probate.

There is only one logical approach to deal with this situation. This is that each month, or whenever, the relevant documents have to be downloaded and then filed (albeit electronically) in some structure locally. This rather defeats the purported ‘paperless’ benefits. Rather than a bill or statement arriving without an action on the part of the recipient, paperless documents require to be proactively managed by some diary mechanism to prompt download. It is an active, rather than passive, process.

Grumpy’s take on this is simple. The alternative is to opt out of paperless documents, and require the organisation to post them. When they arrive, they can be slipped into some tray or box waiting some possible future need to refer to them. This is entirely in accord with Grumpy’s management philosophy, which is “never do today that which can be delayed until a later date, because it may not need to be done at all.”

If this is less hassle than the electronic download process (which it is), why go paperless?

There is also the satisfaction that the duplicity of British Gas (or whoever) selling a cost saving move for them as a benefit for the consumer can be simply negated.