Royal Mail shapes up to problem of large letters

The Royal Mail is considering charging extra to deliver oddly shaped or large items, because they are more difficult to sort. A spokesman for the organisation, which is still losing more than pounds 1m a day, said the company had been talking to the magazine industry about the possibility of moving to “format-based” pricing – depending on the shape of the magazine posted. “As everything becomes more mechanised, it also moves towards standardisation,” she said. “Machines can only sort post that is certain sizes, and other post has to be sorted by hand.” She said the best shape and size for the machines to sort was a standard A5 size, while something the size of an unfolded broadsheet newspaper would be far more difficult. Pricing based on the size or the shape of a letter is common in some other countries, but Royal Mail’s plans have faced opposition from the advertising industry, which has argued that the approach could stymie the creativity of direct mail advertising. The Royal Mail spokesman added that there were no current plans to penalise domestic users for posting odd-shaped cards. This follows protestations from An Post, the Irish postal service, that it was becoming more difficult to deliver Christmas cards because of the changing shape and colour of the envelopes. An Post is now facing an investigation by the Irish Government into a backlog of Christmas deliveries. In contrast, Royal Mail said yesterday it had a good Christmas and had delivered about 2.1 billion festive items, partly because of the rise of online shopping. Royal Mail, which recently appointed a new chief executive and deputy executive chairman, is investing heavily in modernising sorting equipment in order to speed up the delivery process and decrease the very high labour costs throughout the organisation. It is completing a restructuring that should see the loss of 30,000 jobs. The organisation also announced yesterday that it is increasing the amount it charges customers who ring for a postcode. The inquiry line will now charge 50p a minute during office hours, instead of local rate. A spokesman said: “People sending letters were subsidising the service and we want people using the service to pay for it.”

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