Royal Mail apology after website overcharges customers £30,000

Royal Mail issued an apology today as problems with its website led to 600 customers being charged twice while purchasing postage online. The UK postal service said on average the problems had added £50 in extra charges for each customer, which would mean a total of around £30,000 in incorrect charges were billed.

On reviewing records of the incidents, those customers who made extra payments have now been reimbursed, and have been given an extra £25 each as a “gesture of goodwill”.

Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene and Paul Hermelin, chief executive of IT contractors Capgemini Group, issued a joint apology this afternoon, acknowledging that the problems with the SmartStamp and Online Postage applications had come right in the middle of the busiest trading period of the year for many Royal Mail customers.

Along with the excessive charging, the postal operator said other customers had found that their postage was not printed out after it was paid for, while some were not able to see pre-pay accounts topped up after depositing funds.

Such problems were being fixed on an individual basis, the companies said in the statement.

“Royal Mail and Capgemini would like to sincerely apologise for the disruption at this key time of the year for our customers,” said Greene and Hermelin in the statement. “We do really appreciate the level of inconvenience this is causing some of our SmartStamp and Online Postage customers.”

Problems

Royal Mail has been suffering problems with its website since late November, when its postage calculation application, PriceFinder, ran into difficulties. The application is still down today, with a holding page offering links to details of Royal Mail postage rates.

The SmartStamp and Online Postage web pages bear warnings today about the technical difficulties and unusually slow running.

The postal service and its contractor insisted this afternoon that most of the 30,000 users of its SmartStamp and Online Postage applications were not affected by the problems, justifying the continuation of the services while Capgemini works to fix the website.

Royal Mail customers using Online Postage via payment platform PayPal were not affected, the companies added.

In the statement, the companies insisted that the performance of the Royal Mail website was “continually” under review by Capgemini, which was “working hard to return the website to normal”.

Capgemini, a Paris-based global IT services company, signed a six-year deal with Royal Mail back in July 2010 via its UK subsidiary, Capgemini UK. The deal was to take Royal Mail’s IT infrastructure into the cloud computing era, boosting flexibility while cutting costs.

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