Keep Me Posted EU in the COVID-19 era

The default means of communication in Europe has shifted online. This has proven to have many benefits – especially in the COVID-19 era. But not everyone has access to the internet or digital devices. In Europe, 10% of people have never used the internet and do not have an internet connection – rising to as high as 25% in some countries. And an average of 30% either have no, or have lower than basic, digital skills (Eurostat, 2019). This is around 133 million people for whom it would be very challenging, or impossible, to receive information digitally. Highly represented in these figures are older, disabled or chronically ill people and their carers, as well as those living in poverty or facing financial insecurity.

Keep Me Posted EU is a campaign that steadfastly supports the right of every citizen to choose how they want to receive important information, promoting social fairness and inclusion. The campaign supports Europe’s digital transition by ensuring that nobody is left behind. The right to choose how you are contacted is essential. Digital communications are important, but paper communications must remain part of companies’ and governments’ standard offer to safeguard this right.

Everybody has the right to choose

You have the right to choose who to vote for, what products to buy and what services to use. As a consumer, you are protected under the law against discrimination, as well as against unfair commercial practices, pricing and terms of your contract. You also have the right to receive clear information about the products and services you purchase.

But what if you choose to receive this information on paper?

There are many legal protections afforded to consumers, but the right to choose how you are contacted is not one of them. Amidst this lack of protection, more-and-more companies – even some governments – are phasing out paper communications in favour of digital. Sometimes, this happens automatically without you being informed. In other cases, you might be informed, but you will either be charged a fee to continue receiving information on paper, or the frequency of your communications will be reduced. It can also be difficult to revert to paper later, should you change your mind.

Promoting social fairness and inclusion is a vital part of Europe’s digital transition. Digitalisation continues to transform many aspects of our personal, social and professional lives – often for the better. But nobody should be left behind in the digital transition because they cannot – or do not want (for whatever reason) – to switch from paper to digital communications. Particularly those who are already at risk of exclusion. It is important that the fundamental right to make this choice is always protected.

More relevant than ever

Since COVID-19, the right to choose has become even more vital. Amid mandatory social distancing and wide-ranging economic impacts, the risk of social isolation and financial insecurity in the European population has increased – as has the number of people falling into such categories. To exacerbate the unfairness, the people most at risk of experiencing such impacts – often alongside being higher risk for complications from the virus itself – are already some of the most vulnerable.

The importance of ensuring a continuous flow of trusted information cannot be understated – be it about health, or other goods and services. Governments and health institutions turn to reliable communication channels – in both print and digital – to keep all citizens informed. It also helps to counter the growing “infodemics”, fake news and online scams during these uncertain times to further protect citizens.

Social distancing has taught us that as well as digital tools being essential, physical communications also play an important role. Physical communications help to maintain the social bond and support Europe’s digital transition by making sure that nobody is left behind.

Keeping the balance

Until 2014, there was no group at European level supporting the right of citizens to choose how they are contacted with important information – such as election documents, tax forms, bills and statements. Since its foundation in 2014, the Keep Me Posted EU campaign (www.keepmepostedeu.org) has worked to promote and protect your right to choose.

Keep Me Posted EU lobbies European policymakers, calling on them to adopt a pledge to refrain from penalising any citizen for preferring to receive information via paper correspondence. There should be no extra charge, no change of frequency, and no difficulty to revert to paper in the future if desired. All citizens should be given the choice to receive information on paper as a part of the standard offer, and consent should always be sought before ceasing to send paper documents.

This campaign is already supported by a broad cross-section of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), as well as civil society organisations representing groups such as older persons, carers and people with disabilities. Keep Me Posted EU also has the support of various consumer organisations, trade unions and industry associations. Individual citizens can also sign-up to support the campaign.

 Become a supporter!
Join a growing list of supporters who have signed up to our pledge via the Keep Me Posted EU campaign website: www.keepmepostedeu.org/what-can-I-do, and be part of a powerful movement.