The Financial Conduct Authority has warned it will consider making online invoicing mandatory if its fee-payers continue to request paper copies of regulatory invoices.
In a consultation paper published today (November 13) the regulator proposed introducing a £50 annual charge for those who ask for paper invoices from the FCA instead of using its online invoicing portal.
The watchdog has previously promoted the environmental advantages of online invoicing and today warned the additional costs of issuing paper invoices to those companies which do not use the portal were currently being paid by other fee-paying firms.
The FCA said: "As fewer fee-payers continue to opt for paper invoicing, any economies of scale are eroded and the costs per firm of printing and posting documents become more expensive.
"It is unreasonable for other fee-payers to continue to bear these additional costs."
In April 2018 15 per cent of fee-payers still used paper invoices, but this has now dropped to fewer than 8 per cent.
The regulator argued issuing paper invoices involved direct costs for printing, paper, postage and staff time spent chasing firms for payment and issuing reminders.
The FCA said: "The work on individual firms varies. Some pay their invoices promptly, whereas others require chasing and several reminders.
"We consider £50 per firm represents a fair contribution per firm but our objective is not to recover our current administrative costs.
"Our objective is that all fee-payers should recognise the advantages of online invoicing and so move away from paper invoicing."
The regulator said it would consider the policy a success when it has no additional costs to recover because all firms engage with the FCA electronically.
It added: "We hope all fee-payers will opt for online invoicing without waiting to be charged but, in the meantime, the charge will save other firms from paying for the ones that do not.
"If a small core of fee-payers continue to resist online invoicing, we may in the future consider making on-line invoicing mandatory."
The FCA consults on any changes to its fees and levies policy in October and November each year, and publishes feedback the following spring before consulting on the rates to be paid by all regulated firms.
In the first half of each year the regulator also consults on the proposed levies for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and Financial Ombudsman Service and the final fees and levy rates for the financial year are published at the beginning of Summer.
Financial advisers are currently paying 1.1 per cent less than they paid in the 2018/19 financial year, with the FCA confirming the fee cut in July despite the regulator facing increasing costs itself.
Despite this the advice community has been met with a marked increase in their annual regulatory bill this year, in a jump largely driven by higher FSCS costs.
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