Man posting a letter in post box

Royal Mail failing to deliver for households hit by post delays 

Citizens Advice warns the watering down of Royal Mail delivery rules risks ‘rewarding failure’ as millions hit by post delays.

Citizens Advice said letter delays hit almost one in six people – or 7.2 million – this spring, according to its survey of more than 2,000 Great British adults. This comes after concerns about postal voting delays ahead of the election. 

The charity – and official consumer watchdog for postal consumers – said its research suggests delays earlier this year left 1.4 million people facing serious consequences, including missed health appointments, legal documents, fines and benefit decisions.

The industry regulator, Ofcom, has been considering options to shake-up the universal service obligation (USO), which requires Royal Mail to deliver nationwide, six days a week. An obligation which hasn’t changed since the Postal Services Act 2011.

Citizens Advice agrees with the need to future-proof the Universal Service Obligation (USO) but said all options put forward by Ofcom would ‘water down how Royal Mail delivers the country’s postal service and reward years of failure, with nothing offered to consumers in return.’

Ofcom’s options for reform include slowing down the delivery of most First and Second Class letters, and a reduction to the number of delivery days. Ofcom predicts savings for the company of between £100m and £650m against the options being considered.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: 

‘Ofcom have sat by the sidelines for far too long and allowed letter delays and poor service to become business as usual at Royal Mail. The company has now missed its annual targets for nearly half a decade.

‘Reforms can’t just be a disguise for cuts – the only options put forward will water down how Royal Mail delivers our post, saving the company millions but doing nothing for consumers.

‘Post continues to be an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure. Ofcom and the new Government must spell out how the revised USO will deliver for the millions who rely on it, not just for Royal Mail’s prospective new owners and bottom line.’

The charity added it was crucial that Ofcom and the new Government made sure any revised USO guaranteed a service that was universal, reliable and affordable for all.

Royal Mail postbox for posting traditional letters

Vulnerable postal consumers most affected by delays

Disabled people were almost three times more likely to be affected, while in some cases people missed vital deadlines for disability benefit applications, with the delay pushing them into the red.

One Royal Mail customer, John, was left almost £300 out of pocket when his benefit letter arrived late.

John is currently unable to work as he is undergoing cancer treatment. A letter sent by the Department for Work and Pensions asking for an undated fit note arrived two weeks after the deadline for submission.

John, who missed out on £300 while waiting for his fit note to be processed, said: ‘The letter turned up and I saw that it was dated two weeks before I actually received it. It had taken two weeks to get to me.

‘If the letter had arrived on time, I would have sent them a copy of my fit note and received the money on time.’

Royal Mail’s performance under scrutiny

This is the fourth year running that Citizens Advice has raised concerns about standards slipping at Royal Mail, despite routine investigations by Ofcom and fines being imposed.

An Ofcom spokesman said: ‘As well as investigating and fining Royal Mail for its recent poor performance, we’ve been pressing the company on what it’s doing to turn things around.

‘Last week Royal Mail published an update on its improvement plans, and while we’ve seen some green shoots of progress recently, there’s more for the company to do.

‘We’ll continue to hold Royal Mail to account, and take action on behalf of its customers.’

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: ‘We do not recognise the conclusions Citizens Advice have drawn from a small survey sample of 2,000 people who were asked to recall experiences of letter delays and do not reflect recent improvements in quality of service.

‘In every month so far this year we have seen improvements, and year-on-year our First Class quality of service has risen by over 6%, while delivery failure complaints have reduced by 45%. Currently, 95% of First Class mail is arriving within two days, up from 91% at full year.

‘Delivering a consistent, reliable service is our priority and we will continue to deliver our action plan to further improve our service for customers.’

Claiming compensation from Royal Mail

You could be entitled to claim compensation if a parcel you sent is late, lost or damaged. The amount you are entitled to claim will depend on the length of the delay, the type of delivery you paid for and the delivery company you used. 

You will be entitled to claim for compensation from Royal Mail if your post has not arrived 10 days after the due date for 1st and 2nd class deliveries or 5 days after the due date for Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm.

Read our guide to claiming compensation if your post is late, lost or damaged.

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