06 July, 2012
For several years, I have been reading my own electric meter. When they are about to prepare a bill, EDF emails me a reminder, I read the meter and submit the reading to their website. A more convenient arrangement than having a meter reader turn up when you're out. And they do always turn up when you're out, or still in bed, or having a crap, or swinging stark bollock-naked from the chandelier while playing a kazoo. It's really quite uncanny.
So it came about that last year that I received a letter from EDF
We notice that, like, you has an email address and therefore a connection to the Interweb thingie. That's cool, man. So we is going to offer you da opportunity to save da rainforests by electrifying your bill.
All you has to do is sign up for our free online login and you can opt to have your bill made up in electronic form. We will email you when it's ready to download.
p/p Da Singing Turd
OK, I paraphrase somewhat, but you get the drift. I ignored it. And so EDF stopped sending me printed electricity statements. This is an interpretation of "opt in" that I am unfamiliar with, but there you go. Also I found I could no longer submit meter readings, because the relevant webform was behind the "optional" login I had decided not to sign up to.
After a while I cracked, created a login and opted to revert to paper electricity bills. Which, to give 'em their due, actually did work. Why would a modern environmentally-conscious websavvy geezer like me do that, you ask? Because I know something the privatized utility companies have forgotten. Utility bills have social functions in addition to their basic purpose.
Every so often in dealing with the big wide world you are called upon to prove your identity and your address. So how do you provide proof, or at least plausible confirmation, of address? The traditional method is by showing a recent utility or other bill or statement from an "upstanding" organization. With the steady transfer of our official and commercial interactions on-line this handy source of ad hocpaper documentation is gradually drying up.
Next time the postman calls with a package too big for the letterbox and I am out, or can't get down from the chandelier and get dressed quickly enough, I am going to have to go to the sorting office to collect the item, and the nice man will expect to see some place id, something from a respectable and recognized organization with my address on it. Council tax, water rates? Could be but it needs to be no more than three months old. Tricky after June. Phone bill? Do BT still send out paper bills? Don't ask me; I gave up my landline 15 years ago. Bank or credit card statements? On-line only. Gas bill? I'm all electric. Recent lecky bill? Ah! Got one of those.
So, you see, Mr Singing Turd, things are interconnected. And so are the odd little unexpected legacy obligations of operating in the utility infrastructure. I shall be expecting my electric bill, on paper, via snail mail, every three months for the foreseeable future, thanks very much.
Sorry about that.
Proof of identity, sir or madam? Perhaps there is a growth industry for fake proofs of identity (Bank of Guatemala Savings Account, or a bill from the Hamster-Driven Windmills For Clean, Renewable Energy Or Until The Little Things Perish Company)
I mean, no one reads them too closely, anyway.
Job well done methinks