The government’s move from paper to the Internet is saving tens of millions of dollars a year; an electronic payment, for instance, costs the government 9 cents to process, compared with $1.25 for a paper check, according to the Treasury Department. In the case of the proposed SEC change, more transparency for shareholders would mean fewer costs to companies.
But for the paper industry, the stakes for all these changes are high. The digital age has ravaged sales of envelopes, office paper, catalogues and pulp products. Industry analysts say demand for paper products dropped 5 percent on average in each of the past five years. Mills have closed. Thousands of employees have been laid off.
That’s why the industry, under the name Consumers for Paper Options, says it is teaming up with Consumer Action and the National Consumers League to fend off the government’s latest move to the Internet.
“While we recognize the trend towards a more digital world, it is critical that government efforts to ‘modernize’ information delivery do not disenfranchise Americans who need or want resources in paper format,” the group says in a statement on the mutual fund delivery proposal, known as Proposed Rule 30e-3.
Consumers for Paper Options was set up by the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA), with financial backing from the paper industry’s largest trade group and several of North America’s biggest paper manufacturers. The group’s favorite talking point with the public and members of Congress from paper-producing states it lobbies is about Internet access. A quarter of Americans still don’t have it, many of them elderly.