Are custom printed envelopes a right? More and more often, we are asked to choose whether or not we want to receive items electronically or through the mail. Whether we are signing up for a new power company, a medical provider or even a newspaper subscription we are asked if we want to receive all correspondence electronically. This holds true for both the government and the private sector. It’s become almost second nature and is no longer considered an even slightly unusual request. So where is our awareness of envelopes as a right?
To answer this question, in part, some research was needed. InfoTrends was commissioned by Consumers for Paper Options to run and then analyze the results of a national survey. The survey was titled Access for All: American Attitudes regarding Paper & Digital Information. The respondents to the study, 3,073 adults, were randomly selected and representative of the age, gender and income demographics of the U.S. population. This research revealed some rather interesting results.
People Really Like Using Custom Printed Envelopes
The survey discovered that most Americans greatly disagree with efforts to move people from paper to electronic formats. An overwhelming majority of Americans disagreed when that move was applied to parts of the population that are considered disadvantaged. Some of the groups found to be at the greatest disadvantage are seniors and low-income Americans. Some of the primary findings revealed:
- A strong majority of Americans across all demographic groups believe consumers should not be forced to receive information only in an electronic format. Eighty-four percent of respondents said it is wrong for the private sector to force people to receive documents electronically and 73 percent believe it is wrong to expect anyone to have to go online to reach or interact with government agencies.
- Americans across all demographic groups believe there should be government oversight to ensure agencies are not allowed to force people to move from paper to electronic formats, particularly in reference to the disadvantaged portions of our population. Eighty-five percent think that the decision to remove paper-based correspondence as an option for government information should be subject to congressional oversight.
- More than 90 percent of people under the age of 25 believe paper options should always be available and more than half of those respondents prefer receiving paper bills and statements. Since a commonly-held stereotype assumes that people under 25 are more engaged with technology, their recognition of the value of receiving paper statements cannot be overstated. An overwhelming majority (92%) of young people believe that paper bills, statements or other information should be provided free of charge to anyone who wants it. Forty-three percent prefer to receive all of their bills and statements in paper format.
A primary purpose of the survey measured attitudes toward federal and state government efforts to move people from paper to electronic information formats. The evidence collected shows that most Americans greatly disagree with these efforts.
- Eighty-nine percent think that moving consumers to online-only documents will disadvantage certain groups, including the elderly, the disabled, those with low-incomes or the poorly educated.
- Seventy-three percent think “it is extremely (50%) or somewhat (23%) wrong to require anyone to go on-line to access government agencies.”
- Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed say that the government agencies should not be allowed to charge for anything received in paper format.
Government agencies are not the only ones pushing a move to electronic formats. A large number of banks, insurance companies, and other businesses are discouraging or penalizing the use of paper documents by charging an additional fee for them. The survey asked a number of questions to find out what the public thinks of these efforts. The resulting answers were not surprising.
- Eighty-four percent say it is definitely not okay for companies to force customers to receive bills, statements or other documents in electronic format only.
- Eighty-two percent say that some people don’t like computers, don’t have access to them, or don’t want to learn to use them and it is unfair to force these people to receive documents electronically.
- Seventy-three percent of Americans surveyed believe companies should not be allowed to charge for paper-format documents, regardless of the reason.
- Finally, of those surveyed, 87 percent say the main reason for the shift to electronic formats is to save the companies money, not because they want to be environmentally responsible.
The Bureau of the Census provides information as well on the “digital divide” http://www.esa.doc.gov/reports/exploring-digital-nation-computer-and-internet-use-home. Regardless of whether or not people prefer paper or electronic formats for the bills, statements and other correspondence they receive, many don’t have Internet access. Based on research from the 2010 US Census, more than 25 percent of American households have no Internet access. An additional 27 percent only have access at home and less than half (44 percent) have regular access inside and outside the home. In addition to this, the elderly, minority groups and low-income households are even less likely to have Internet access. This speaks resoundingly to the need for continued use of paper bills, statements and other documentation. All requiring envelopes as a matter of course.
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