Inquiry into ‘discriminatory’ delivery charges for rural Scots

Rural Scots face rip-off delivery charges. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Rural Scots face rip-off delivery charges. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
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A full inquiry by watchdogs is being demanded into “discriminatory” delivery charges faced by millions of Scots living in rural areas.

Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles has written to Ofcom about the issue after a series of high-profile cases saw Scots customers hit with soaring charges.

Nicola Sturgeon hit out last year over a £50 delivery charge for £5.99 towels from Halford’s

Mr Rumbles said: “No-one should expect a poorer standard of delivery service simply because of where they live.

“However, all too often retailers are getting away with charging discriminatory delivery charges to rural and islands residents or, perhaps worse, excluding these households from delivery options.”

A UK-wide code of practice was put in place while the Liberal Democrats were part of the coalition government for parcel deliveries.

It was aimed at avoiding discrimination against consumers on the basis of location.

But Mr Rumbles says that firms are either unaware of this or ignore it when he has challenged them to review or change their delivery practices.

“That’s why I have written to the regulator to request it set up a full investigation into delivery charges and practices among retailers and carriers,” he added.

“I believe many people could benefit from an Ofcom report examining what regulations or charges controls may facilitate an end to what many rural and island residents see as an unfair practice.”

The Scottish Government has devised its own “statement of principles” for parcel deliveries, which sets out guidelines calling on business to avoid charging disproportionate delivery costs, provide greater transparency and the widest possible delivery coverage.

“We share the widespread concerns over high delivery charges to certain parts of Scotland,” a Scottish Government spokesman said.

“Customers will, rightly, take a very dim view of businesses that fail to do so or seek to exploit them.”

The Halfords case involved a customer living on Speyside and was raised at First Minister’s Questions last December when Ms Sturgeon described the cost as “shocking.”

Ofcom declined to comment officially before it has received Mr Rumbles’ letter, but sources said the watchdog would consider such a request.