Royal Mail’s weakening of delivery rules risks ‘rewarding failure’ – report

Citizens Advice has warned that a relaxation of Royal Mail’s delivery rules risks “rewarding failures” as millions of households suffer postal delays.

In response to concerns about postal voting, the charity said delays in mail delivery had affected almost one in six people – or 7.2 million – this spring.

Research by the advisory service, the statutory watchdog for postal consumers, found delays earlier this year had caused serious consequences for 1.4 million people, including missing medical appointments, legal documents, fines and benefit decisions.

People with disabilities were almost three times more likely to suffer these outcomes, and in some cases, these people missed key deadlines for filing disability benefits claims, causing them to fall into deficit.

The charity’s research also found that many people pay for first-class stamps because they fear the cheaper option will not arrive on time.

One in four people do not believe that second-class letters will reach the recipient on time.

Citizens Advice has raised concerns about falling standards at Royal Mail over the past four years (Yui Mok/PA)

Citizens Advice has warned that if Royal Mail continues to raise prices at the current rate, first-class stamps will become almost 200% more expensive within five years.

For the fourth year running, Citizens Advice has raised concerns about falling standards at Royal Mail despite routine investigations by Ofcom and the imposition of fines.

While the organisation agreed with the need to future-proof the Universal Service Obligation (USO), it said all of the options put forward by Ofcom would “undermine the way Royal Mail delivers the national postal service and reward years of failure without offering consumers anything in return”.

He also warned that Ofcom could allow letter deliveries to be slowed down, which would allow Royal Mail to charge much higher fees.

The charity said it was vital that Ofcom and the new government ensured that any revised USO rules ensured a universal, reliable and affordable service.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “Ofcom has sat on the sidelines for far too long and allowed delayed deliveries and poor service to become the norm at Royal Mail, which has failed to meet its annual targets for almost half a decade.

“The reforms cannot be a cover for budget cuts – the only options on the table will undermine the way Royal Mail delivers mail, saving the company millions but delivering no benefits to consumers.

“The Post Office remains a vital part of the UK’s infrastructure. Ofcom and the new government must explain how a revised USO service will benefit the millions of people who rely on it, not just future new owners and Royal Mail’s bottom line.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “As well as investigating and penalising Royal Mail for its recent poor performance, we have pressed the company to explain what it is doing to improve its situation.

“Last week, Royal Mail published an update on its improvement plans. While there have been some recent signs of progress, the company still has a long way to go.

“We will continue to hold Royal Mail to account and take action on behalf of its customers.”

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “We do not share the conclusions reached by Citizens Advice based on a small sample of 2,000 people asked to recall their experiences of delayed mail delivery, and they do not reflect recent improvements in the quality of the service provided.

“We have seen improvement every month this year, with the quality of our first-class service increasing by more than 6% year-on-year, while the number of complaints about undelivered items has fallen by 45%. 95% of first-class items now arrive within two days, up from 91% for the year.

“Our priority is to deliver consistent, reliable service and we will continue to implement our action plan to further improve the customer experience.”