Canada’s largest bank goes paperless

I know mobile phone companies are going paperless, setting off a lively debate here. But I didn’t know that Canada’s largest bank had done the same thing.

In May, RBC Royal Bank stopped sending paper statements to its personal banking clients. David, who wrote to me, doesn’t remember getting any notice.

I went through a lot of paperwork this past weekend and realized I hadn’t received a statement since April. The May and June statements I printed from the computer, assuming they were lost in the mail.

When I noticed I hadn’t received July’s statement either, I finally broke down and called the bank. It turns out they just decided not to send me statements any more.

The rep explained that it was my responsibility to call them to ask to continue to receive statements. Of course, I got the whole pre-scripted lies about how RBC cares about the enviroment. RBC only cares about this quarter’s profits.

The move came at a time when fees went up. David used to pay $4 a month for 15 debits, plus one automatic payroll deposit, and 50 cents for each additional debit. Now his $4 a month covers 15 debits, but no payroll deposits, and he pays 65 cents for each additional debit.

He also complains that RBC bungled his order of new cheques last May.

I had finished cheque 100, so asked that it start at 101. This was too challenging a request, as the order I received started at 151. I want sequential cheques for my accounting/taxes, so had to call again asking for a correct set to start at 101.

Ellen, you would have thought I had asked for the keys to Fort Knox. The woman on the phone refused, stating I had to go into the branch and give them the cheques starting at 151 before they would order me a set at 101.

I refused. It was their mistake, not mine, I wasn’t going to be inconvenienced. It took over 4 phone calls before someone would help me. The big joke? The next set of cheques came and started at 001!

Another phone call, begging, please, can you submit a simple cheque order for me? Again, the same hassle that I’d have to go into the bank before anyone would help me. As if my whole existence in May and June was planning how to rip off a set of cheques.

Matt Gierasimczuk, an RBC spokesman, promised to send David’s complaints to the client care centre to follow up with him and make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

So, why did the bank move to electronic statements only?

At RBC, we firmly believe that reducing our environmental footprint, and promoting more environmentally friendly practices, products and services, is not only our responsibility as Canadians, but it’s also good business.

Since January 2006, over 4.7 million RBC accounts have switched to eStatements, saving approximately 980 metric tonnes of paper or 28,000 trees every year.

If a client wishes to continue receiving paper statements, however, we are more than happy to provide this at no cost.

David’s response? No, thanks.

I could get them for free, but it’s similar to the Rogers negative option billing fiasco years ago.

Their customers should have to call them to request a change, not have paperless forced on them and have to contact them to get what they were always getting.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

21 thoughts on “Canada’s largest bank goes paperless”

  1. “Since January 2006, over 4.7 million RBC accounts have switched to eStatements, saving approximately 980 metric tonnes of paper or 28,000 trees every year.”

    How much extra plastic and metal for the computer infrastructure?

    How many individuals printed their statements, thereby cutting down trees anyway?

  2. “Since January 2006, over 4.7 million RBC accounts have switched to eStatements, saving approximately 980 metric tonnes of paper or 28,000 trees every year.”

    It’s not only RBC, but many other companies as well. This isn’t a matter of saving trees but rather a matter of transferring some of the cost of doing business to the customer.

    RBC’s failure to notify its customers of this move demonstrates a clear lack of respect for them.

    28,000 trees? I’d rather see the truth: How many DOLLARS is it saving RBC? If you’re going to make such a change, at least be honest about it.

  3. Why are we complaining about a company that is trying to do its part?

    The majority of companies out there are sitting up and recognizing that not only SHOULD they do their part, but the majority of consumers WANT them to help the environment.

    I have no issue paying five cents for a plastic bag if I forgot my reusable tote – it’s the world we’re living in now. People need to get with the times and realize that going paperless is the right thing to do and quit b*tching about it.

    If you’re so put out, ask them to send you the paper statement. A simple phone call is not going to kill you.

    Yes, they should have given people notice, but that’s a minor slip up and I don’t think it’s worth blogging about. I’ve been receiving paperless statements from my bank and paperless bills from any company who offers it.

    If this is all you have to complain about, then you need to look around at the lives of others who have far worse problems than paper statements.

  4. I am an RBC customer, and I received more than one notice, both in paper mail and in online banking, that paper statements were going to be discontinued. I can’t tell you why I received notice and your reader did not.

    I’ve had a similar run-around over cheques, though, even when ordering online (which should eliminate data-entry errors…)

  5. Wow pretty shocking that RBC charges it’s customers to put their paycheques into their account by automatic deposit. Very few companies cut pay cheques. Makes me glad I am not one of their customers.

  6. RBC said, “At RBC, we firmly believe that reducing our environmental footprint, and promoting more environmentally friendly practices, products and services, is not only our responsibility as Canadians, but it’s also good business.”

    This is typical corporate hogwash. What it means is that RBC is using this enviro-kick to cash in and save itself money on postage, paper, and ink.

    Oh, and LG, try taking the red pill next time and waking up. People like you who walk around in comas and swallowing propaganda are a drain on society.

  7. Just a comment here:

    The option for paper statement is available online at the RBC Internet Banking. You don’t even need to call the Bank to change back to paper statement.


    1 – Logon to RBC Internet Banking
    2 – Click the Statements link in the left hand side from the Accounts Summary Page
    3 – Clck “Change Statement Options”
    4 – At this point you will see a list of your account, just click “change” beside the account you would like to get paper statements
    5 – Select one of the 3 options available and click “continue”
    6 – Voila, you are done.

  8. I love the e-statement option. In fact I save them all to my own PC, including the cheque’s images. In fact I’ve all my cheques and statements since 1987 saved to my machine. Obviously the old ones I needed to manually scan, but this is no longer the case since I can save the RBC PDF files right to my machine.

    Just a few precautions:

    If you save financial data to your computer make sure you are encrypting and backing up the files. You can use a free open source software for encryption, seearch Google for TrueCrypt

    For PDF printing, so you can print the cheque images, you can also use a free software. Do a Google search for Free PDF Printer.

    For backup you can search Google for Comodo Backup.

    Not printing is the right thing to do. If RBC is making money on the process so be it. In my view we should stop complaining about such trivial things and start doing our share for a greener planet. Besides is much easier to search for and file info in digital format, comparing to looking for a document inside dozens of paper boxes of documents hoarded for decades.

    Marie, I totally disagree with your comments: Not everyone print e-statements – I know I don’t. Second the PC industry will not stop creating extra plastic and metal for computers just because you are using or not using e-stataments. This is a very silly analogy since people already are using their computers for other tasks.

  9. I actually do believe the “green” excuse – anyone who works for a largish company is beaten over the head with these nonsensical “corporate social repsonsibility” initiatives these days.

    It’s the same garbage that leads to you coming into your office one Monday morning and finding that IT has configured all the printers to only print double-sided without telling anyone. Or that you’re expected to give up a bunch of Saturdays to stand next to your boss at charitable events you didn’t choose to support.

    Some important idiot in a corner office on a high floor decrees that CSR is a priority because it’s trendy now, and that’s that.

  10. The solution is simple. Switch to a no-fee account at one of your local credit unions. I never understood the concept of paying a bank for keeping your money. They are _borrowing_ your money and charging the customer for it. It’s utterly ridiculous! I ditched RBC 3-4 years ago and never looked back.

    As for paper statements, that’s just another excuse for banks to save a few pennies under the disguise of “helping the environment”.

  11. When a topic like this comes up, invariably people think it’s a way for Big Banks to make Big Profits. If you’re truly convinced of this, then do what I did… buy shares of that bank. Cash in on all those Big Profits.

    If you don’t want to do that, then either do as Brian suggests and switch to a credit union, or stop whining.

  12. Jay:

    People need extra hardware to save the documents. I wrote that MANY individuals print their statements… not everyone. Some companies print for revenue declaration pruposes. The banks are spending money on computers to do this type of work. Computers need regular upgrades. The cost of running an IT department can be high. Some people working in that industry are making really good money.

    I wish people would stop believing that running stuff on computers removes the environmental impact humans have. It CHANGES the environmental impact. Now what happens when you computer gets stolen or someone with a better code-cracker get into your stuff? There is no perfect answer.

  13. To Jim E:

    I do happen to own shares in one of the banks but, this may come as a shock to you, many people cannot afford to purchase shares.

    Why is it that whenever people raise a valid point about something, there is always some clown who comes in and tells everyone to “stop whining” or to “get a life”?

    If you’re so unconcerned about it, Jim E, then why are you here?

  14. I don’t understand the problem. It seems you can opt back into paper statements, and also the bank can save money and serve the environment at the same time – and in fact should.

  15. I have no problem with the bank going paperless, I would, however, want it to be my option to change, not their option.

    I also think that arming their staff with crap about the environment’s importance to the bank is very insincere; they should just say it is cheaper and they are trying to keep costs down.

    If Royal had environmental concerns, they would be doing things that cost them money to help the environment, not just the things that save them money.

    And please, folks, I value your opinions but rarely your advice on how I or other commenters need to live our lives!

  16. Anyone with Telus? I was “told” by a little notice in the top left corner of my phone bill that paperless billing would be starting soon and that if I didn’t change my preference to paperless billing I would get charged two dollars a month for them to send me a paper copy.

    What is up with that?

  17. So a bank wants to save money and help the environment at the same time. What’s the big deal? Banks are in it to make money, they are not non-profit orginizations. Notices were sent to all clients either trough their paper statements or through their online banking. Maybe they should read before throwing away mail inserts or deleting important electronic notifications.

  18. I am new customer of RBC. I had opted for estatement due to environmental reasons. But after 3 months I realised that I need mailed Paper statements to apply for OHIP card in Ontario. Thereafter I requested RBC to generate and mail me the usual coloured Paper statements, which they denied saying it is not possible now. I wonder why it is not possible for them to generate paper staements and mail it to me. If This option is not available when we opt for estatements then the idea of going paperless is not flexible and not suitable for many of their clients.

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