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Paper or email? Shoppers clinging to printed receipts

Washington

PAPER sales receipts won't die, even as the world rushes to digital.

A survey of consumers conducted for a group tied to the paper industry found more than three quarters of US shoppers preferred to walk away with a slip of paper, not a copy sent to an e-mail. "Consumers prefer and trust paper and there is a very real worry about data security that needs to be considered," said Greg Selfe, campaign manager for Choose Paper, a group formed last month to advocate for paper over digital as green groups target the slips.

US shoppers are the biggest paper backers, at 71 per cent, followed by the UK at 69 per cent, Canada at 64 per cent and Germany at 61 per cent, the survey found. A year ago, a separate YouGov Omnibus survey found 68 per cent of internet users preferred a physical receipt while 19 per cent favoured a digital copy.

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Choose Paper argues that hard-copy receipts don't deplete forests, a key argument for adopting an e-mail-only approach. Green America, an advocacy group founded four decades ago in Washington, is pushing US retailers to drop paper, citing the loss of trees. Its efforts helped fuel a legislative effort in California this year to ban paper receipts unless a customer asks for one. Green America is targeting three dozen retailers to adopt electronic receipts, although only Best Buy, Apple and Ben & Jerry's currently provide them. The remaining companies either lack a formal programme, or make it optional, according to an online report.

Selfe's Chicago-based group, which is affiliated with Two Sides North America, a paper and graphic industry association, focused on the threat of identity theft for e-mailed receipts. "Our research shows that most people do not want digital receipts," he said. A Toluna poll this year found 70 per cent of US consumers and 64 per cent of Canadians were concerned that by giving retailers personal information, such as e-mails and addresses, they were at a greater risk of being hacked.

About half, or 48 per cent, of the 8,900 people surveyed in North America and Europe said paper receipts are more secure, while 23 per cent said electronic versions were most secure. Majorities also said paper is more practical for archiving, accounting, returns and refunds. BLOOMBERG