Royal Mail seeks approval for delivery and compensation rule changes

Royal Mail has asked regulator Postcomm for permission to make a number of changes to the operator’s terms and conditions that would bring it “more in line with other delivery companies”. The company wants to introduce a pilot scheme to leave undeliverable parcels with neighbours when the no-one is at home and the item of mail is too large to go through the letter box.

Royal Mail would also like to amend the compensation amounts available for business contract customers, a change which would not affect consumers. The vast majority of small business customers use stamped and franked mail and parcels and would also not be affected, the company said.

The operator added it “will continue to provide a very high level of service if the proposals are accepted”. None of the proposed changes are relevant to Parcelforce Worldwide.

In addition, Stephen Agar, Royal Mail’s director of regulated products, said: “The way we all use the post is changing rapidly. We are seeking approval to make some changes to the services we provide which better reflect today’s postal market.”

In a bid to side-step high costs of delivery failure, Royal Mail is asking to launch the ‘neighbour’ trial this autumn – and if successful, to roll-out the programme in full next year. The pilot will include Recorded Signed For letters which require a signature on delivery but Special Delivery mail would not part of the pilot scheme.

In terms of business compensation, the operator is proposing that compensation for loss or damage of postal items should not be available for contract business customers using untracked services such as Mailsort or Packetpost.

A company statement said: “Royal Mail believes that the current compensation arrangements are not in tune with the reality of today’s postal market.

“Customers increasingly want tracked services. Royal Mail has invested heavily in these services to meet the changing market demands. The improved range of delivery services Royal Mail offers enables customers to choose the right service to meet their needs for speed, tracking and compensation.

“None of the major UK delivery companies provide large businesses with untracked delivery services with compensation for loss or damage. These changes will not affect consumers or the vast majority of small business customers who use stamped and franked mail and parcels.”

In another proposed change, Royal Mail hopes to shorten the timeframe in which customers can claim for loss or damage to postal items. Currently, claims can be made up to 12 months after an item was posted; however, the operator wishes to cut that to 90 days for a six month period, before moving to a 60-day claim period next year.

Finally, Royal Mail proposes to introduce a standard holding period of 18 days at delivery offices for items that could not be delivered to the address on the day of delivery because no one was at home. Currently, Recorded Signed For items are held for seven days. Royal Mail Tracked items are held for 14 days and all other items for 21 days. If an item is not claimed after this time, it is returned to the sender where possible.

A Postcomm statement said: “We do not at this stage express a view on the merits or otherwise of Royal Mail’s proposals and consider it more appropriate to consult and invite views from interested parties, including in relation to the appropriateness of issuing a direction for Royal Mail to trial the service. However, we attempt to draw out issues which we believe interested parties ought to bear in mind when considering these proposals and ask specific questions on which we would welcome responses to enable us to reach a view consistent with our statutory duties.”

The regulator is inviting responses to the proposals until 9 September.

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