Royal Mail has been given the green light to start delivering parcels to neighbours, where recipients are not at home to receive them.
The service will now begin next week.
UK postal regulator Ofcom gave its approval today to the “Delivery to Neighbour” programme, which has already been trialled with 748,000 addresses in six areas of the country.
Ofcom stated its belief that the new scheme would reduce the need for consumers to pick up their parcels from Royal Mail depots or post offices, and that it would bring Royal Mail in line with rival delivery firms, who can already leave items with neighbours.
“The ‘Delivery to Neighbour’ scheme should help meet increasing consumer need for easier ways to receive certain items requiring a signature and parcels, if the person is not at home when the postman tries to deliver,” the regulators said in a statement.
Consumers will be able to opt out of the scheme – either having their items delivered to neighbours, or receiving items for their neighbours – by displaying a free opt-out sticker near their letterbox, Ofcom said. The stickers will be available from Royal Mail.
Only 1% of households opted out of the scheme in trials, but there were criticisms about efforts to publicise the ability to opt out.
Ofcom said it would also urge Royal Mail to look for alternatives to the opt-out sticker considering the concerns expressed by some individuals consulted on the proposal. Potentially an electronic or less visible opt-out procedure should be considered, it said.
The regulator said it would be monitoring the service closely, including the level of customer complaints, and would be able to investigate any issues raised.
Royal Mail started publicising the Delivery to a Neighbour service to 29m households last month, expecting approval from Ofcom.
The Group said today that the service would bring its terms more into line with other delivery companies, and confirmed that it would begin nationally on Monday (1st October).
Mike Newnham, Royal Mail’s chief customer officer, said: “We are delighted that Ofcom has approved the regulatory changes that enable us to roll out the Delivery to Neighbour initiative across the UK. This means that customers will benefit from the improved convenience during the busy Christmas period and beyond.”
UK national consumer watchdog Consumer Focus said today that Ofcom’s approval for Delivery to Neighbours was “good news for consumers”, particularly as more people now live in single-occupant households.
Robert Hammond, the director of postal policy and regulation at Consumer Focus, said: “Missed deliveries are an increasing inconvenience for many people and giving postmen and women the option to leave undeliverable post with a neighbor is one way to tackle this issue.”
Consumer Focus, which was involved in monitoring the trials of the scheme, would fully support the roll-out as long as the scheme was well-publicised, carefully monitored and made clear that people can opt out, he said.
Hammond added that Royal Mail should still continue to look for alternative ways to deliver undeliverable parcels, such as locker terminals, time-slot deliveries and delivery alerts.
“Delivery to Neighbour should not be seen as a universal solution to the issue of delivery convenience,” he said.
Source: Post&Parcel/Royal Mail/Ofcom/Consumer Focus