Banks, credit card companies, and other businesses are aggressively pushing consumers to receive their monthly statements electronically, but a new report by the National Consumer Law Center warns that these efforts can create more harm than good for consumers. The report notes that millions of Americans -- particularly lower-income, less educated, older, and households of color -- are on the other side of the “digital divide,” lacking home broadband Internet access. According to a recent Pew Research study:
•59% of households with incomes under $20,000 and 53% of those with less than a high school education do not have home broadband Internet access. Even those with access may have older computers, slow connection speeds, or may lack a printer or money to afford expensive ink to print statements.
•About half of Hispanics (50%) and African Americans (46%) lack access to home broadband Internet.
•Over half (55%) of Americans 65 years or older lack home broadband Internet. Even if they have access, older consumers may be less comfortable with electronic statements or find them risky. Paper statements can be critical for family members who are trying to piece together financial records for an older consumer who is incapacitated or has passed away.
The report also notes that mobile devices aren’t a substitute to home computers because of their smaller size and formatting and unsuitability for record keeping.