People in northern Scotland are paying a “postcode penalty” of up to 50 per cent on surcharges imposed by delivery companies, a consumer watchdog has warned.
Citizens Advice Scotland said delivery companies should work together to drive down operating costs in more remote areas of the Highlands and Islands, in a bid to reduce prices for all consumers - and warned that the problem was not confined to rural areas.
Charges for parcel delivery are at least 30 per cent higher on average for the “Highlands and Islands” – which includes urban locations such as Inverness and even parts of Aberdeen, than for other areas of mainland Great Britain. Those living on the Scottish islands are asked to pay over 50 per cent more for parcels to be delivered, with heavier items sometimes costing almost four times as much as elsewhere in the UK.
The report by Citizens Advice Scotland, which has been running a campaign to reduce delivery charges for northern Scotland since 2011, found 80 per cent of consumers affected do not think the extra price is fair, with 83 per cent saying they would buy more online if it was not for the charges.
CAS consumer spokeswoman Nina Ballantyne said: “This new data is stark, and shows that people in the northern half of Scotland are hit by delivery surcharges which can be difficult to justify.”
This is not just a problem for remote and rural areas.
“In addition, many online retailers are not transparent about the charges. So consumers are unable to make informed choices. We believe that any delivery charges should be up-front and justifiable, and would like to see consistent pricing policies across the UK.”
The research also recorded cases where the retailer excluded certain regions from delivery altogether. “Although the prevalence of this appears to have decreased in recent years, the issue has not disappeared,” said the report.
MSP Richard Lochhead said it was “wrong” to regard the IV postcode to be outwith “mainland UK”. He said: “It is ludicrous that online shoppers in the Highlands and Islands can be expected to pay almost four times as much as the rest of the UK for delivery charges purely because of where they live.”
A debate will take place tomorrow in the Scottish Parliament on the issue.