"Our research shows that most people do not want digital receipts. Consumers prefer and trust paper and there is the very real worry about data security that needs to be considered."
Such is the opinion of Greg Selfe, campaign manager for new consumer rights group Choose Paper. Its aim is to stop high street shops and online stores fobbing people off with digital receipts sent via email or added to a downloads page.
Here we go, we hear you cry. Another bunch of fuddy-duddies can't access their email because AOL is on the blink again. So let's bring back paper receipts! And while we're at it, bring back pounds and ounces; bring back furlongs and shillings; bring back national service; bring back rickets and the plague; bring back my bonnie to me to me.
Except... that's not quite what Choose Paper is about. The campaign points out mundane but universal truths such as physical receipts being damn convenient.
Ever been stopped by a store detective on your way out? Ever had to take something back to a shop? On such occasions, it's simpler to wave a printed receipt than spend the next 10 minutes struggling with your phone – which is showing just one bar of 4G (because you're inside a shop) – to find out whether an emailed receipt has arrived while other customers stare at you and harrumph.
There is also a perception, not just among older citizens either, that having all shop receipts entered and sent digitally opens the consumer up to receiving unsolicited marketing messages based on their transaction histories.
Beyond this, Choose Paper wants to focus on the environmental impact of digital receipting compared with that of little bits of paper.
"In considering a move to digital alternatives to paper receipts, consumers and retailers need to bear in mind that this option is not free of environmental impacts," warned Selfe. "Server farms and data centres require vast amounts of energy to operate, with many using fossil fuels as their source. As technology progresses, the demand on these data centres increases and so does the carbon footprint."
He quoted figures from environmental think tank The Shift Project that suggest digital technology's global share of greenhouse gas emissions could reach 8 per cent by 2025. This is as much as what's produced by all cars on the road at the moment, and roughly eight times that of the pulp, paper and print industries.
So there you have it: according to Choose Paper, it's a clear choice between sustainable forestry and building more nuclear power stations. ®
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