Royal Mail’s plans to add a “delivered by Royal Mail” slogan on machine-sorted letters and parcels delivered in the UK are not being welcomed by direct mail customers.
The UK postal service announced modified proposals last week to introduce the new addition to the Printed Postage Impression (PPI) for about 80% of its 15bn letters and parcels from next month.
The new mark will feature on pre-printed envelopes, with business mailers offered a six-month grace period to use up envelopes without the mark. From the end of June, Royal Mail will also print the mark on stamped mail, and from January 2013 on franked mail.
On the surface, the move aims to clear up confusion in the event that mail items arrive at the wrong address, so that customers know which company to contact about problems.
But in the UK’s competitive postal market, it will also act to promote Royal Mail, even where other postal companies have collected and sorted items prior to entry into the Royal Mail network for last mile delivery.
Only items that are sorted by hand at Royal Mail, or items sent abroad, can be sent without the mark.
Royal Mail said more than half those responding to its consultation were supportive of the proposal. Among those backing it were the Communication Workers Union, which said it recognises the hard work of mail carriers.
But some customers have suggested the new mark is merely a “marketing exercise” for Royal Mail, particularly since the company delivers 99% of UK mail over the last mile. They see the move by the British postal operator as free advertising on materials they have paid to produce.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) told Post&Parcel that members it had spoken to were not pleased with the requirement for the new mark on their mail.
Mike Lordan, the DMA’s chief of operation, said: “Royal Mail’s decision to start stamping mail it delivers may well appeal to the postmen that deliver it, but the DMA members we’ve spoken to – Royal Mail customers – are not happy about the prospect.
“Royal Mail does not own the envelopes that it delivers, so it’s hard to understand what right it believes it has to stamp its own marketing message on a medium that is not its property.
“If Royal Mail wants to market itself to householders by telling them who delivered their mail, then it should find another means of doing so,” said Lordan.
Royal Mail has been discussing the plan with its customers in a consultation since November, after postponing use of the mark following a formal complaint from the DMA to regulator Postcomm over a lack of consultation.
Since the original proposal, Royal Mail has decided not to print the “delivered by” mark in the top centre of a mailpiece, but in the top right of an envelope with the PPI. Marketing firms had said the original plan had the potential to get in the way of advertising messages.
Royal Mail has also amended the design of the mark since last year’s proposal, to aid print quality.
For Royal Mail’s competitors, only those running full end-to-end collection-and-delivery services will be able to avoid use of the mark. Royal Mail currently delivers around 99% of UK mail on the last mile to homes and businesses.
Although last week Royal Mail cited its rival UK Mail as accepting the improved form of the “delivered by” postmark, during the consultation on the label, Downstream Access postal operators did express the concern that the mark was “misrepresentative” of Royal Mail’s role as sole delivery operator.
“It is true that for Access mailing items, other postal operators are involved in the ‘mailing’ process including collecting, sorting and handing over the mail to Royal Mail, but nobody other than Royal Mail’s postal workers actually make the final delivery of the Access mailing items to the recipients,” said Royal Mail in response to the concern.
Rival TNT Post has been running a new end-to-end trial in West London, although it says Royal Mail’s VAT exemptions still make it impossible to run a full end-to-end service.
Source: Post&Parcel/Royal Mail/DMA