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eBilling Legislation - 6 ways Striata can keep you on the right side of the Law…

Regulation And Striatas Ebilling Best Practice

Ireland’s Communications Regulator has just introduced the world’s first Consumer Protection for Bills and Billing Mediums. It’s been a long time coming, particularly when you consider the number of lawsuits that have been sparked off by ill-conceived eBilling strategies around the world!

But now that regulation has arrived, it’s worth having a look at what the Irish Telco regulator thinks are the main areas of concern with eBilling, as I’m sure other regulators will follow suit.

And it’s a bit of a mixed bag! Here’s a quick summary:

  • Post-paid bills – both paper and electronic – must be provided free of charge, including fully itemised bills if that’s the customer’s preference.
  • Pre-paid customers can ask for a “transaction history” (basically an itemised statement of usage) free of charge.
  • Customers who are “forced” to change from paper to electronic can break their contract with no penalties.
  • Service providers must ensure and verify that customers can access the alternative electronic media before migrating them from paper.
  • Where bills are made available on the service provider’s portal (Pull eBilling), alerts (SMS or email) must be sent during sociable hours, and an opt-out for alerts must be available.

What does it mean for Service Providers?

Forcing customers to switch to eBilling by charging for paper bills is a no-no! Hardly surprising as this has been the reason for a number of class-action lawsuits from the USA to Australia over the years. But how else are these companies going to encourage customers to go paperless?

Allowing customers to break their contract if they are forced to go electronic is even more interesting – just how many will take this option, even if it is a case of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ People don’t like being told what to do, and will often go to great lengths to make a point if they feel they’ve been pushed into a corner.

A couple of the other regulations offer opportunities and create challenges for the service providers.

Ensuring and verifying that customers can access the electronic bill before you turn off their paper bill requires detailed tracking and more. For example, the fact that the customer opened the email doesn’t mean they can view the PDF eBill; you need to track that this was opened too, which requires some tricky interactive PDF development.

Whilst providing pre-paid customers with a transaction history when they ask for one may sound like an inconvenient additional cost, what if you could incorporate useful, targeted marketing into this document? Or even provide the facility for the pre-paid customer to re-charge at a preferential rate from within the transaction history?

Suddenly, this additional cost could become an important customer touch-point and revenue generation channel.

Regulation and Striata’s eBilling Best Practice

From Striata’s perspective, this regulation doesn’t come as a surprise and wouldn’t cause any issues for our clients should this type of regulation become more widespread.

Basically, it’s a very “common sense” approach to eBilling and fits in well with what we’ve been promoting for the past 12 years…

6 Ways Striata can keep you on the right side of the Law:

Don’t penalise customers for wanting to stick with paper – encourage them to switch to eBilling by highlighting theadded features and functions.

  1. Provide a compelling eBilling alternative that is more convenient than paper and customers won’t turn to another service provider when asked to change.
  2. Bring eBilling customers on-board with adoption processes that verify they are receiving emails and confirm they can open the PDF documents. Let them see how good your eBilling is before you ask them to give up paper.
  3. Use transactional eDocuments as regular customer touch-points to reinforce the relationship and cross-sell and up-sell new services, especially where there is no other regular communications channel (like pre-paid telephony).
  4. Time the sending of email communications to maximise open rates and effectiveness. The same message sent on a Tuesday morning or Saturday evening will perform very differently.
  5. Always provide an easy unsubscribe link for customers wanting to go back to paper. It won’t get used often if your eBills are more convenient than your paper bills, but always give your customers the choice.

Keen to self-regulate your eBilling efforts before your regulator comes in and does it for you? Get in touch with Striata and we’ll keep you on the right side of the law!

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