Royal Mail will start publicising its plans to allow customers to have parcels delivered to a neighbour, with leaflets going out to households from Monday.
The alternative delivery option, which is currently undergoing a final review by regulators, would mean consumers can receive packages when they are not at home.
In particular, the service should be useful for Internet shoppers who are at work when their purchases arrive.
Royal Mail said that subject to approval by Ofcom, which is taking comments on the plans until 24th August, it hopes to begin offering the delivery option from late September.
Starting next week, all 29m households in the UK will receive leaflets detailing the initiative, including information to opt out for those who do not want a neighbour to receive parcels, or other items too large for their letterbox, on their behalf.
Mike Newnham, Royal Mail’s chief customer officer, said: “We look forward to Ofcom’s decision on rolling out the initiative later this summer, but wanted to give all our customers early information about our plans and outline their options.”
Currently, Royal Mail is the only parcel delivery company in the UK unable to deliver parcels to a neighbour when recipients are out and about.
Ofcom, the communications industry regulator, said last month it was of the view that it should change the rules to allow Royal Mail the additional delivery option, subject to its final consultation.
Assuming the initiative goes ahead, Royal Mail said Special Delivery and international items requiring a signature will remain excluded from the Delivery to a Neighbour service.
Over the winter, Royal Mail ran a three-month trial of the service among 750,000 homes in six areas, with more than nine out of 10 people involved happy with the service and the added convenience it offered in receiving package deliveries.
During the trial, only 1% of households opted out of the initiative, although some critics suggested Royal Mail had not done enough to publicise the opt-out option.
“The results of the trial showed that customers welcomed the convenience of having items delivered to a neighbour if they were not at home to receive them,” said Newnham.
National consumer watchdog Consumer Focus, which has been involved in monitoring trials of Delivery to a Neighbour, and has supported the idea of providing the alternative delivery option, said today that it was a “good option” as long as people know they can opt out.
The watchdog also stressed it was “vital” for mail delivery staff to be fully aware of the guidelines on what can and cannot be left with neighbours.
“As we do more of our shopping online, missed deliveries are becoming an increasing inconvenience for customers,” said Consumer Focus director of postal policy and regulation Robert Hammond.
“Not all customers will want their mail to be left with a neighbour. But we welcome this extra delivery option, as long as Royal Mail ensures customers are aware they can opt out and that staff adhere to the scheme’s guidelines.”
Consumer Focus said it also wanted to see Royal Mail exploring other ways to deliver mail to bring down undeliverable rates, particularly for those who do not wish to have items delivered to a neighbour.
“Delivery to neighbours is not the universal solution to the issue of delivery convenience,” it said today.
Source: Post&Parcel/Royal Mail/Consumer Focus