I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I prefer to receive online bills and invoices from service providers rather than have hardcopies dropping through our letterbox. It’s not just for the obvious environmental and cost benefits – I’m also simply better at managing such stuff electronically rather than having to faff around with piles of paper. Fortunately, most of the companies I deal with have offered online billing since I became a customer.

A few years ago, just before we were set to move home, I made a point of contacting all the companies who still regularly sent me hardcopy bills to request that I switch to online if possible. Some were able to fulfil this request without a problem, others apologetically advised me that they did not yet have systems in place to offer online billing – which was a fair enough response, particularly for smaller operations.

But from Barclaycard, who have over 10 million customers in the UK, I got a most curious response:


From: customer.services@barclaycard.co.uk      
To: ian@ianfnelson.com      
Date: Sat, Jul 1, 2006 at 09:14

Dear Mr Nelson,

Thank you for your e-mail.      
Unfortunately we are unable to stop sending out paper statements by post.      
As a financial institution, we are legally bound to send hard copy statements to all cardholders if there is a balance owing on their account.      
Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Kindest regards      
Ranjith Mathew Kurian (Mr)      
Customer Account Manager      
Barclaycard Online Service


Really? A legal obligation to send hard copy statements to all cardholders if there is a balance owing? I took them up on the offer of contacting them with  a further query – namely, asking why the other credit card providers I used were apparently not hindered by the same legislation:


From: ian@ianfnelson.com      
To: customer.services@barclaycard.co.uk      
Date: Sat, Jul 1, 2006 at 09:19

American Express do not send me hardcopy statements, they just email me each month. Are you suggesting that Amex are breaking the law?      
Ian


A day later, this response:


From: customer.services@barclaycard.co.uk      
To: ian@ianfnelson.com      
Date: Sat, Jul 2, 2006 at 11:26

Dear Mr Nelson,

Thank you for contacting us again.      
May I inform you that we are unable to comment on other credit card providers policies. However, as advised earlier, we send out statements to all our customers if there is a balance owing on the account.

I apologise for any inconvenience caused.

I must also advise you that should we not hear from you within eight weeks of the date of this e-mail, we will assume that your complaint is resolved.

Kindest regards      
Vineetha N (Miss)      
Customer Account Manager      
Barclaycard Online Service


I didn’t bother responding, figuring that life is too short, and they clearly weren’t interested in the idea of paperless billing at that time.

So, spin on three years, and I was pleasantly surprised to log on to Barclaycard’s website recently and see this graphic:

paperless

Yay! Great job Barclaycard, what took you so long? Spending all your time and money on that fancy advert with the guy on the water slide, I suppose? ;-)

After signing up for the paperless billing, I couldn’t resist sending this cheeky reply to the email thread from three years previous:


From: ian@ianfnelson.com      
To: customer.services@barclaycard.co.uk      
Date: Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 23:00

Well done on finally offering paperless statements!

What happened to the legal obligations to send out hardcopy statements mentioned in the email thread below?! ;-)

Ian


I didn’t really expect any reply, but was amused by this bizarre response which came through a few hours later:


From: customer.services@barclaycard.co.uk      
To: ian@ianfnelson.com      
Date: Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 06:11

Dear Mr Nelson,      
Thank you for your e-mail.      
You must make a request in writing stating they want a copy of their credit agreement, included with this must be a £1 cheque/postal order payable to Barclaycard, sent to:

Barclaycard House      
PO Box 5592      
Northampton      
NN4 1ZY

I hope this information will help you.

Kind Regards      
Dinesh Moolchandani      
Customer Advisor      
Barclaycard Customer Service Team


The mind, it truly boggles. What did they think I was asking? I hope I never need to contact Barclaycard Customer Services for anything important.