Parcel firms urged to cut fees for rural families

Jo Swinson: 'Many have faced ridiculous delivery charges'
Jo Swinson: 'Many have faced ridiculous delivery charges'
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PARCEL delivery firms are to be given a “statement of principles” to try to improve things for people in remote parts of the UK who face high delivery charges.

Consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson, who will make the announcement at John Lewis’s depot in Glasgow today, will set out best practice for businesses – including couriers, e-retailers and parcel delivery firms – to make sure delivery charges for consumers in remote communities, such as the Highlands and Islands, are more transparent.

In Scotland, 57.4 million orders worth £2.5 billion are made online each year.

Research from 2012 showed at least a million people in Scotland faced surcharges, delayed parcels or having delivery refused altogether. Consumers in the Highlands were charged an average of £15 extra for delivery.

Those in Scotland’s island communities face a mark-up of up to 500 per cent on the standard delivery price to receive goods they order online.

Many firms refuse to offer express deliveries to more remote parts of the UK, while some courier companies, such as Parcelforce, put the Highlands and Islands into a separate “zone” from the rest of the UK – with a different price structure.

Ms Swinson, the MP for East Dunbartonshire, said: “Too many shoppers, especially in rural parts of Scotland, have faced ridiculous delivery charges when buying online. Delivery charges should be clear upfront, so people can decide to shop elsewhere if they feel charges are excessive.”

The code of practice will say online retailers should ensure their pricing policies do not discriminate against consumers on the basis of their location.

Shoppers buying online should also be charged a fair delivery price, be given delivery cost information up front and get clear directions to the terms and conditions.

Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, which has campaigned on the issue, said: “This UK-wide statement is recognition that unfair prices and practices for parcels should not and will not be tolerated by consumers, regardless of where they live and where they choose to buy their goods from.”

The trade body representing retailers said the guidelines would help companies provide the best possible service for those in remote areas.

However, Tom Ironside, of the British Retail Consortium, warned: “It is not always possible to provide consumers everywhere with every product, given the need to provide withdrawal rights and guarantee rights for up to six years, or the same delivery charge for certain heavy goods.”.