Changes to Royal Mail delivery rules risks rewarding failure

Changes to Royal Mail delivery rules risks ‘rewarding failure’

That’s according to Citizens Advice

Watering down Royal Mail delivery rules risks “rewarding failure” as millions of households are hit by post delays, Citizens Advice has warned.

Following concerns about postal voting for the election, the charity said letter delays hit almost one in six people – or 7.2 million – this spring.

Research by the advisory service, which is the statutory watchdog for postal consumers, suggests delays earlier this year left 1.4 million people facing serious consequences as a result, including missed health appointments, legal documents, fines and benefit decisions.

Disabled people were almost three times more likely to be affected, while in some cases people missed vital deadlines for disability benefit applications, with the delay pushing them into the red.

The charity’s study also suggests that many people pay for first class stamps because they are worried the cheaper option will not arrive on time.

One in four people do not trust second class letters will reach their destination when they should.

Citizens Advice warned that if Royal Mail continued to hike prices at the current rate, first class stamps would be almost 200% more expensive in five years’ time.

This is the fourth year running that Citizens Advice has raised concerns about standards slipping at Royal Mail, despite routine investigations by Ofcom and fines being imposed.

While it agreed with the need to future-proof the Universal Service Obligation (USO), it said all options put forward by Ofcom would “water down how Royal Mail delivers the country’s postal service and reward years of failure, with nothing offered to consumers in return”.

It also warned that Ofcom could allow letters to be slowed down and, at the same time, pave the way for Royal Mail to charge much more.

The charity said it was crucial that Ofcom and the new Government made sure any revised USO guaranteed a service that was universal, reliable and affordable for all.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “Ofcom have sat by the sidelines for far too long and allowed letter delays and poor service to become business as usual at Royal Mail. The company has now missed its annual targets for nearly half a decade.

“Reforms can’t just be a disguise for cuts – the only options put forward will water down how Royal Mail delivers our post, saving the company millions but doing nothing for consumers.

“Post continues to be an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure. Ofcom and the new Government must spell out how the revised USO will deliver for the millions who rely on it, not just for Royal Mail’s prospective new owners and bottom line.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “As well as investigating and fining Royal Mail for its recent poor performance, we’ve been pressing the company on what it’s doing to turn things around.

“Last week Royal Mail published an update on its improvement plans, and while we’ve seen some green shoots of progress recently, there’s more for the company to do.

“We’ll continue to hold Royal Mail to account, and take action on behalf of its customers.”

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “We do not recognise the conclusions Citizens Advice have drawn from a small survey sample of 2,000 people who were asked to recall experiences of letter delays and do not reflect recent improvements in quality of service.

“In every month so far this year we have seen improvements, and year-on-year our First Class quality of service has risen by over 6%, while delivery failure complaints have reduced by 45%. Currently, 95% of First Class mail is arriving within two days, up from 91% at full year.

“Delivering a consistent, reliable service is our priority and we will continue to deliver our action plan to further improve our service for customers.”

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