An Englishman’s home is his castle, the old adage goes, but if said Englishman is not home, he certainly doesn’t want the postman to leave his mail with the neighbours, according to new research.
Consumer Focus, the UK’s national consumer watchdog, said yesterday that people were generally “unconvinced and unimpressed” with Royal Mail’s plans that would seek to reduce missed deliveries.
Royal Mail asked regulator Postcomm a few weeks ago for permission to trial a system where items would be left with neighbours when nobody was home if an item was too large to go through the letter box.
But research carried out by polling firm GfK NOP on behalf of Consumer Focus found that four out of every five consumers would want to be able to opt out of such a scheme.
More than half of the 2,054 people questioned in the study said it was not acceptable for a neighbour to sign for mail on their behalf when it required a signature – while one in five people were unhappy for any of their neighbours to receive any of their post.
And, more than half of those surveyed said they would not be happy sending parcels if they knew delivery could be to a neighbour’s door.
The study found that UK consumers have “serious concerns” about who mail carriers might leave their mail with, and whether they trust their neighbours, particularly with important items.
Consumer Focus said that so high was the level of consumer concern, if Royal Mail trialed such an idea, it should be independently monitored for customer satisfaction.
And, the watchdog said if any scheme is subsequently adopted, people should be allowed to choose whether to participate.
Natasha Dare, a postal expert at Consumer Focus, said: “Many people don’t know their neighbours well, and wouldn’t want valuable or private mail to be left with them. We are calling on Royal Mail to give people a choice.”
Currently, undelivered post is taken back to the delivery office if a recipient is not home, with a P739 card put through the recipient’s letter box detailing their options for a redelivery, collection from a delivery office or from a post office.
If an item is not collected or redelivered within a certain number of days, it is returned to the sender as undelivered.
Royal Mail wants its mail carriers to be able to deliver items to a person who lives “in close proximity” to a recipient when he or she is not home. If a neighbour accepted such an item, the postman would deliver a notification card to the addressee regarding the whereabouts of the item.
Consumer Focus found that a particular concern among UK consumers was the ability of mail carriers to decide whether it was safe to leave an item with certain neighbours.
Just over half of those surveyed said they didn’t believe their regular postman had enough knowledge about whether they trusted their neighbours, while 68% feared that a postman new to their route would not be able to judge whether or not to leave items with a neighbour.
Dare said despite Royal Mail’s understandable need to find ways to deliver post in a more cost-effective way, having items left with neighbours could not be the only option on offer for consumers.
Consumer Focus said Royal Mail could expand its Safeplace service, allowing senders to designate an alternative delivery location including a neighbour, to non-business customers.
Other options suggested by the watchdog were for full roll-out of the “successfully trialled” paid-for evening delivery service, use of post offices for collection points or the introduction of collection locker systems similar to Deutsche Post’s Packstations – an idea that online retail giant Amazon is trying out in the United States at the moment.
She said: “People want a reliable post service, with mail delivered safely and in good time. If this most basic service is undermined, consumer confidence in Royal Mail may suffer. The success of any changes to mail delivery must be judged on consumer satisfaction and not simply a reduction in Royal Mail’s costs.”
Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel