Ofcom to make sure people are treated fairly by delivery firms

Ofcom to make sure people are treated fairly by delivery firms

People sending and receiving parcels in the UK should be treated more fairly by delivery companies, under new protections proposed by Ofcom today.

Ofcom has found that almost two thirds (64%) of customers have experienced problems with deliveries in the last three months.

Around a quarter of senders find it difficult to make a complaint, or to contact parcel operators, when their delivery goes wrong. Two in five say their complaints are only partially resolved, while almost one in ten are left with their complaint completely unresolved.
Our evidence also suggests an inconsistent level of service across the industry: customers’ satisfaction scores on complaints handling range from just 29% for one operator to 71% for another.

New rules for parcel firms

Ofcom is  proposing new guidance requiring all parcel firms to tighten up their complaints handling. Ofcom also plans to require better protections for disabled customers, who are almost 50% more likely to experience significant problems with parcel deliveries.

Under our existing rules, all postal operators must have a simple and transparent complaints process in place.

Ofcom now intend to set additional guidance, under which customers must be:

  • told who to contact, and what channels they can use to make a complaint;
  • told what the complaint process will be, and how long it will take to resolve;
  • dealt with by staff who have received appropriate training.

Ofcom is also proposing a new requirement for parcel firms to establish, publish and comply with clear and effective policies and procedures for the fair treatment of disabled customers. This includes ensuring that disabled customers can communicate their delivery needs to the parcel operator, and setting out how couriers will meet those needs when delivering parcels.

If Ofcom does not see substantial improvements in customer service and complaints handling, Ofcom will consider enforcement action or further regulation.

Parcel problems probed

Ofcom is also publishing today’s plans alongside its annual monitoring report on the postal market. This shows that people’s reliance on parcels continues to grow – a trend that has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the most common difficulties people experience when sending parcels include not getting through to the right person; the company refusing to take responsibility for the problem; and the length of time taken to resolve it. Many people also struggled to find out how to complain in the first place.

Disabled people are more likely to experience parcel delivery problems than most. These include couriers not allowing enough time at the door, parcels being left in inaccessible places, and operators not acting on specific delivery instructions provided to them.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group Director commented:  “Parcel deliveries have become increasingly important to our daily lives and customers rightly expect a positive experience. We’re planning to strengthen our rules to make sure people are treated fairly by delivery firms. If we don’t see significant improvements in customer service, we’ll consider enforcement action or tighten regulations further.”

Maintaining strong regulation of Royal Mail

As the universal service provider, Royal Mail is subject to more regulation than other postal operators. For example, we set it strict annual delivery targets and impose a cap on second-class stamp prices. These are important safeguards and Ofcom has previously shown we will not hesitate to investigate if we believe Royal Mail has broken our rules.

Our review has found that these rules and safeguards are generally working well for people and businesses who use postal services. Ofcom also considers that continuing to allow Royal Mail commercial flexibility to respond to the changing market would allow it to continue to modernise its network for the digital age, and secure the long-term financial sustainability of the universal service.

Therefore, Ofcom proposes maintaining the current framework for regulating Royal Mail for a further five years.

While the short-term sustainability of the universal service appears to be more secure than it was, the longer-term outlook remains uncertain. Royal Mail must adapt to the changing market, modernise its parcels operations and become more efficient, if the universal service is to be financially sustainable in the longer term. The main drivers for this are ultimately within the company’s control.

Ofcom continue to be concerned about Royal Mail’s efficiency performance. To increase our understanding of its longer-term sustainability outlook for the universal service, Ofcom proposes requiring the company to set out its longer-term efficiency ambition and report publicly on progress against this.

Today’s consultation on Ofcom’s review of postal regulation closes on 3 March 2022. Ofcom expects to publish a statement on our final decisions in summer 2022.

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