Royal Mail is asking regulators to allow postment and women across the country to drop parcels off with neighbours when recipients are not home to accept them, after its trial in six areas proved successful.
The universal postal service provider in the UK is currently the only delivery company that is not allowed to leave items with a neighbour as part of its standard practice.
But yesterday, Royal Mail revealed that its trials had found 92% of parcel recipients whose items were delivered to neighbours were satisfied with the service, while 90% of those receiving items on behalf of neighbours were also happy with the option, according to a survey of 720 customers.
Trials were carried out involving about 748,000 homes in areas including Edinburgh, Gatwick North, Hull, Norwich, Swansea East, Wigan and Bolton from November. Special Delivery and international deliveries requiring a signature were excluded from the trial.
The trials particularly responded to the explosive growth of mail order and e-commerce parcel volumes in the UK, and the number of items that have to be returned to a depot if they are too large to fit in household letterboxes, or require a signature to take delivery.
Convenience was cited by trial participants as top of the list of factors why they were satisfied with the service, according to consumer watchdogs Consumer Focus.
Royal Mail sid yesterday it was now asking regulator Ofcom to amend the postal regulations to allow the Delivery to Neighbour trial to extend nationwide later this year.
The rule change would require a public consultation to take effect.
Mike Newnham, Royal Mail’s chief customer officer, said: “The results of the trial have been very encouraging. Customers welcome the convenience of having items delivered to a neighbour if they are not at home to receive them.
“Royal Mail is now seeking regulatory changes to allow us to extend Delivery to Neighbour across the UK for the benefit of customers,” added Newnham.
Royal Mail said 1% of households had opted out of taking part in the Delivery to Neighbour trial, after being informed about the initiative.
Consumer Focus said there were still some “low-level” problems to be ironed out in the Delivery to Neighbour service, but said “by and large” it would support the extension of the service.
In particular, consumer awareness of the trial or the ability to opt out was an issue, with only a third of consumers in trial areas aware it was taking place.
The consumer group also said only one in five of people in trial areas realised they were able to opt out of the scheme.
Consumer Focus said there were also a “small number” of mail carriers who left items with neighbours that should have been excluded from the trial.
The group said Royal Mail needed to do more to publicise the service, and also continue looking into alternative ways of delivering undeliverable post, saying leaving items with a neighbour was “not the universal solution.”
“We are ordering more and more items online and during the week many people will be working, meaning undeliverable mail is an inconvenience for consumers and a growing demand on Royal Mail’s resources. Leaving post with a neighbour is a good way of tackling this issue,” said Robert Hammond, the Consumer Focus director of postal policy.
“It may not be a universal solution as some people will not want to leave mail with people living nearby, but as long as consumers are fully aware they can opt-out, then we feel the scheme could be extended further, if Royal Mail wished to do so.”
Source: Post&Parcel/Royal Mail/Consumer Focus