Telecom operators will have to continue providing hard copies of telephone bills to their subscribers without any cost as a default option, sector regulator Trai said Monday. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said telecom operators could send electronic copies of the bills to consumers only after their explicit consent. "The current provision of providing hard copy of the bill free of cost as default option as per present provisions shall continue," Trai said after reviewing provisions for sending printed bills to postpaid subscribers. The regulator, however, said if any customer opts for receipt of the bill through e-mail instead of hard copy, the service providers can supply the same after obtaining explicit consent from the consumers. In an Open House Discussion in February, telecom operators pleaded to Trai for changing the default option of sending hard copy of the bill to consumers to e-bill citing reasons such as environmental concern, cost savings, timely bill delivery, and claiming that 90 per cent of postpaid subscribers have opted for paperless option. The regulator after the discussion with all the interested parties realised that half of the country's population is not e-literate and the paper industry in India is not forest-based but engages around 5 lakh farmers from whom more than 90 per cent of the industry's wood requirement is sourced. The stakeholders also argued that in default e-bill option, the onus of printing the bill will shift to subscribers as many of them will need its hard copy in cases including claiming input credit of the goods and services tax.