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3,000 angry Scots respond to CAB survey on rural delivery charges

25 Jan 2012

Citizens Advice Scotland have now received over 3,000 messages from Scots who are furious at the unfair delivery charges applied to people in rural areas.

The charity’s nation-wide survey closed this week, and officials are now busily planning the campaign’s next moves amidst this unprecedented reponse. They are pledging that the campaign is only just beginning, and say they intend to get many of the offending companies to change their ways.

CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee said today:

“When we first opened this survey in November, we knew this was an important issue, but frankly we’ve been taken aback by the scale of the response, and ithe intensity of the feeling. There is massive anger about this right across rural Scotland. Not just the Highlands and Islands, but southern Scotland and the north east as well. And even people in urban Scotland are concerned about the issue.

“This is about basic fairness. People feel they are being mistreated - and indeed discriminated against - just because of where they live. They are fed up with it, and they want a fair deal. As this campaign moves forward now, we are determined to help them get that.

“Let’s be clear – rural people don’t want ‘special treatment’. All they want is to be treated fairly. They want companies to obey the law, and they want delivery charges to be based on the actual cost of delivery. That’s all.”

Our survey has revealed that many online companies:

  • state that they offer ‘FREE DELIVERY’ but then charge substantial fees for people in rural areas;
  • refuse to deliver at all to certain areas, which they class as ‘too remote’;
  • use expensive couriers for all their deliveries – even though Royal Mail delivers to all UK postcodes for the same low price;
  • apply a single delivery fee to all addresses in a postcode area – despite the fact that some postcodes contain wide variations in the actual cost of delivery (e.g. The KW postcode includes much of Caithness as well as Orkney).
  • With-hold their excessive delivery fees until the last moment, so the customer might spend a long time adding items to their online basket, only to find huge costs added at the ‘checkout’ – just as they are about to pay.

Susan McPhee continues:

“So we now have over 3,000 recent examples of people in Scotland who say they have been over-charged, or even refused delivery altogether, just because of where they live. That’s a fantastic response, in just a few weeks. It constitutes a really solid bank of evidence, and we’re grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey.

“So we are closing the survey now so that we can analyse the evidence in detail. But I want to assure people that this campaign is only just beginning. Every single response we received will be read carefully, and will inform the full report which we will publish in the spring. Thanks to the publicity we’ve received so far, we’re already in touch with many ministers, politicians, industry regulators and consumer groups - all of whom are keenly awaiting our findings. We will be working with all of these and others in taking the campaign forward.

“We will also be writing to some of the companies who have been named in our survey, to see how they respond to what we have found. We believe many of them – particularly the smaller companies - are simply unaware of how unfair they are being, and they may be persuaded to change their pricing structures once we show them the realities. If not, we will make them aware of their legal responsibilities, and put pressure on government and regulators to take action. Either way, our objective here is very clear: we want to get change, and secure a fair deal for consumers across rural Scotland.

“If anyone wants to help our campaign they should contact their MP and MSP, urging them to back Citizens Advice Scotland’s campaign on rural delivery charges. They can also contact us via our website - www.cas.org.uk. Even though our survey has now closed we are still interested in hearing peoples’ views and experiences.

“This is ‘people power’ in action. It’s also the CAB service at its best – empowering consumers and fighting unfairness.”

For more information, interviews, case studies etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655.

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