Paperless billing: Should you opt-in or opt-out?

OYS: Paper free billing

WYOMING, MICH. - You hear about companies being hacked, but the trend is still to do business online -- that includes billing customers and also involves going “paperless."

"I want a bill, I want to see what I owe", says Steve DeVries, who lives in Wyoming. For DeVries, paying online is not an option because he doesn't own a computer. 

"I'm on a fixed income, I don't need to be paying for that," DeVries said.  And although DeVries could use a local library's computer -- he says it more than that.

"The whole world is going to the computers and I'm not about that," he says, and he is not alone. There are people who simply don't want to pay online, often for security reasons.

"I'm not comfortable with this because it seems to me somebody could get their identity stolen," DeVries says, and he's right. There is always that chance and you hear about it all the time. But Michael Kaiser, with National Cyber Security Alliance, says it can be done safely.

“We can't ever emphasize enough to strengthen the security of your accounts. Whether that's through passwords or multi-factor authentication," Kaiser says. That means consumers should create complex passwords that are at least 12 characters long and add personal questions that authenticate their identity.

Consumers Energy has been offering paperless billing for years. Spokesperson Roger Morgenstern says, "It's a greener way of getting a bill. You get an email in your inbox and it lets you know your bill is ready. We have several firewalls in place to make sure our customer’s info stays private."

Companies like DTE Energy recently sent notices to it's email customers asking them to “opt-out." If they don’t, they are automatically enrolled in the program. Company Spokesperson Brian Bleau says if you “opt-in” you will receive an email notification when your bill is ready to view, but you are not required to pay your bill electronically.

Both DTE and Consumers Energy says it will continue to offer the paper option. But, no one knows how long that will last.

"I think it's the wave of the future and for most people it's going to come sooner rather than later," says Kaiser.

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