£440 - the annual cost of NOT shopping online

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hand holding credit card and wallet by laptop

If you don't pay your bills or do much of your shopping online then you could be paying more than £400 a year extra. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) have crunched the numbers and claim 7m UK consumers don't use the Internet to save money on a range of regular bills, dramatically penalising them.

Who are most exposed - and what are the basic things that everyone should be buying online?

Punished

Perhaps predictably, it's older people who are most resistant to shopping and paying for basics online. Many still prefer to have a traditional, postal paper bill rather than a breakdown on a computer screen. But opting out costs.

Households who don't use the internet pay an average of £440 more a year for their goods and services says the CEBR, equivalent to 4.4% of their average household income a year (or 5.4% of the average household income for older people aged 65 plus).

The study claims the biggest average saving is from buying groceries and IT services. Increasingly most utilities - from energy costs to mobile and council tax charges - are paid and administered online, allowing companies and local councils to spend less money on hiring staff or answering calls.

Penalised

For example, if you get several paper bills a month for non-direct debt services then it may cost you around £2 per month extra per bill. "I know it's only £2 but it all adds up at the end of the day," one survey respondent said. "When you've got five or six of them at £2, that's a weeks shopping when you're on benefits, you know."

"A significant number of people," says Judith Donovan, chair of the Keep me Posted campaign, an organisation that fights extra charges for people who prefer to receive paper bills, "have never, and probably will never, access the internet. Yet, this is where the impact on household budgets is the greatest."

Not all utility companies will charge extra for paper billing. Wessex Water claims that although they offer online billing, "customers will have the choice whether they would like to sign up for an account or continue to get a free paper bill."

However BT charge their customers £1.50 per paper bill (and there are plenty of other companies that adopt a similar practice); many people using prepayment electricity meters are only offered the priciest tariffs.