For many of the companies that I use, a visit to their web site usually includes a request to go "paperless" and to "autopay". It's a great deal for these companies. They get to take my money out of my bank account, usually a few days before the bill is due, and they skip on sending me the bill. It reduces the chance I will notice errors in their billing, it gives them extra cash float, and it saves them money. My reward for being so generous to these companies? Absolutely nothing.
Most of the time, I click the button that says "no thanks, I'd rather destroy the rain forest with paper bills". It's out of spite but it's also because I want my bills delivered to me. I don't want to have to go to the company's web site to get a copy of my bill. I want it sent to me every month before it's due.
If these companies offered me the opportunity to receive these bills as PDF files each month by e-mail, I would accept that gladly. It's as effective as mailing me the bill, but costs nothing. It does not require any special infrastructure either, just an SMTP server.
So why don't companies do this? I have no idea. I'm guessing they think e-mail is just not secure enough. Technically, that may well be true. But that does not make it an insurmountable issue. Encrypted e-mail solutions are widely available and stripping a bill of information that might be sensitive is also possible. Is it really a big issue if someone hacks my gmail account and find out how many watts of power I consumed last month.
While e-mail is generally not encrypted the truth is that it's remarkably hard to intercept. Finding one phone bill in a sea of viagra solicitations is going to be difficult and if someone wants that information badly enough, there are other ways that are probably easier.
Image Flickr, CC, from Pink Sherbet
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