Scottish people are getting ripped off on delivery charges
We seem to have a lot of Scottish readers here at Bitterwallet. We don’t know if it’s because they are particularly keen to save money, whether it’s the Tennent’s, or whether Scottish people are just that bit more erudite than your average web-browser. In any case, they will be pleased to know that someone is standing up for Scots who are getting ripped off on delivery charges.
MP Sir Robert Smith, a Lib Dem no less, has introduced a new bill into Parliament. Coming off the back of the Scottish CAB’s report, The Postcode Penalty, the draft bill aims to go some way towards levelling the playing field on punitive delivery charges levied on up to 1 million Scottish inhabitants.
Many retailers have argued that it costs more to deliver items to the more remote areas of Scotland, like the Highlands and Islands, as there might be just one to deliver, as opposed to a number that can all be dished out in a city elsewhere in the UK. However, much of Aberdeenshire (Aberdeen being the third largest city in Scotland and larger in population terms than Oxford, Cambridge or Preston) is also lumped into the penalty area delivery drivers dare not tread. The CAS report found that Moray, Argyll and Bute and Perthshire are also often lumped into the expensive delivery area.
The Scottish CAB report claimed Scottish people were being "routinely ripped off" by unfair delivery charges, with those living in Scotland's island communities paying nearly £18.60 extra on average to have goods they bought online delivered, representing a 500% mark up on the standard delivery price. Customers in the Highlands were charged an average £15 extra.
Of the 534 retailers whose policies were investigated, 335 charged extra for delivery to certain parts of the UK, with 55% of retailers who did restrict the areas of the UK to which they would deliver at all, refusing to deliver goods to any Scottish islands.
The bill would make it compulsory for websites to declare the presence of surcharges before consumers even start to browse.
Interestingly, however, 69% of retailers investigated by CAS did not offer delivery by Royal Mail. Royal Mail, of course, is bound by a universal service obligation, which means that delivery anywhere in the UK will cost the same. In light of yesterday’s privatisation announcement, the Government is adamant that the universal service will remain, to ensure communities like those in rural Scotland, Wales and Cornwall are not disproportionately affected. However, given the obligation clearly makes Royal Mail less competitive, can the Government really impose punitive terms on a private, profit-making company it no longer owns? Or will postage costs for people in the farthest corners of the UK just get even worse...