Scots “routinely ripped off” by parcel delivery surcharges
More than a million Scots are being hit by “unfair” parcel delivery charges because of where they live, a consumer watchdog claimed yesterday. Citizens Advice Scotland said Scots ordering products for home delivery were facing up to a 500% mark-up on shipping costs if they live in some of the more rural and remote areas like the Scottish islands.
The group said that consumers in the Highlands and Northern Ireland were also facing “postcode penalties” when shopping online.
But, it also said that in calculating surcharges some of the 534 online retailers studied within the research were wrongly classifying major towns and cities in Scotland – suggesting that Aberdeen is in the Highlands and that Inverness is offshore.
The Citizens Advice Scotland head of policy Susan McPhee said Scots were being “routinely ripped off” by delivery charges because of where they live.
“That is clearly and deeply unfair, and it cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged,” she said.
The watchdog first published a report on delivery surcharge concerns this time last year, which then prompted more than 2,000 people to come forward with additional complaints about delivery charges.
McPhee said her team had continued its research including the additional complaints, leading to this week’s report.
“We passed all of these complaints to Trading Standards, who have done a brilliant job of pursuing every one of them,” she said. “Meanwhile, we at CAS have been researching the hundreds of companies identified, and examining their delivery policies.”
The CAS study showed consumers in Scottish islands being charged GBP an extra 18.60 to deliver goods bought online, while those in the Highlands were being charged an extra GBP 15 per item.
Nearly two thirds of the 534 websites reviewed (335 of them) charged extra for delivering to certain parts of the UK, with nearly three quarters of those surcharges leveled at Scottish consumers.
Some of the worst offenders named in the study were eBay prior to a change in its delivery policy, along with Amazon, Tesco, Argos, Toys я Us and Halfords.
McPhee claimed the latest research suggested that the “unfairness” was affecting more people than was commonly realised.
“This campaign has had some success in persuading some companies to change their ways – most notably eBay, which has adjusted its policies as a result of being presented with this evidence. But we call today on all online companies to examine their delivery policies and make sure they are not applying this unfair postcode penalty on Scotland,” said the CAS head of policy.
Last month Scottish enterprise minister Fergus Ewing convened a summit of parcel carriers and Internet retailers with hopes of improving the situation regarding delivery surcharges in Scotland. However, the only carriers present at the meeting were Royal Mail and its Parcelforce unit, along with Highlands-based delivery specialist AJG Parcels – and Royal Mail does not impose surcharges on parcel deliveries.
The Communication Workers Union said this week’s CAS report showed the need for a “publicly-owned Royal Mail with a commitment to a universal service”.
The union representing 150,000 Royal Mail staff, which is currently campaigning against privatisation, said the CAS study highlighted the long delivery delays and “unfair private delivery charges”.
Billy Hayes, the CWU general secretary, said: “This research confirms our fears that if Royal Mail is privatised the service will be worse and more expensive – especially outside big cities.
“It is vital that we own the postal service collectively and insist that it sticks to the universal service obligation – which guarantees regular delivery, at the same price, to everywhere in the UK.
“I urge people in Scotland to lobby politicians against the sell-off of Royal Mail.”