You are here

Small businesses being let down by the postal system

Small business in Scotland are being let down by the postal system. That’s according to new polling published today by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The Yougov survey of 500 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) found that:

  • 60% said the cost of sending parcels by Royal Mail was expensive;
  • Yet 1 in 4 said they faced surcharges on inbound deliveries from private parcel operators;
  • 42% of those who complained to a parcel operator were dissatisfied with the response.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has welcomed the research and is joining with CAS today to urge action to improve service levels in the postal industry.

Publishing the research today, CAS Strategic Lead Gillian Fyfe said,

“SMEs are the backbone of the economy in Scotland. They rely on the postal system, to bring in supplies as well as sending products on to customers. They need and deserve a decent postal system. And this research shows that it is too often letting them down.

“Businesses need to know that parcels will be delivered to customers on time and have confidence that when mistakes happen, they can be resolved in a simple, efficient way.

“We need a postal system that is affordable, efficient and works equitably across all parts of Scotland. And the regulatory framework needs to be robust enough to ensure that people and businesses get the services that they pay for, and that problems are easier and faster to fix.

“All businesses and people need to have confidence that Royal Mail will deliver on the services required by the Universal Service Obligation. This includes maintaining quality of service standards and delivering mail for a flat rate to any UK address.

“We don’t believe this is too much to ask. But it requires action from government, the postal industry and the regulators. We hope they will take this report as a call to take that action.” 

Andrew McRae, Policy Chair of FSB Scotland, said:

“This new research shows that, despite the rise of digital technology, the postal service is still critically important to Scotland’s smaller businesses. But too many firms find current services too expensive or have faced problems caused by lost or delayed items. This polling shows that firms feel action should be taken on cost and to improve customer service. 

“Scottish small businesses really value the universal service the Royal Mail provides. That’s why FSB agrees with CAS that it is essential that the universal service obligation continues to ensure flat rate delivery prices to any UK location. Parcel delivery surcharging would have disproportionate impact on rural businesses delivering to customers outside their local area.” 


William Crawford (56) is Managing Director of The Old School Beauly, based near Inverness. He is available for interview and a photo is attached. William says,

“We buy in items as well as selling them on to customers all over the country, so we do rely on the postal system. And we’ve certainly been hit at times by high surcharges, based on our postcode, which we think are excessive.

“We’ve also had items lost, delayed or damaged in the mail. It doesn’t happen often, but the point is it shouldn’t happen at all, and every time it does it means unnecessary costs.

“Our experience of Royal Mail has been mixed. At the start of lockdown I called them to set up a collection account. Amazingly, it took them over a year to properly respond and get this set up. To be fair, since it has been in place it has worked pretty well, but in that year we had to use an assortment of different couriers, which meant travelling to and from the post office, spending more money - and risking getting covid!

“In general, I think the results of the CAS survey are a fairly accurate reflection of how I see the postal service. Affordability is certainly an issue. Every penny counts at the moment, for all businesses, and I think many couriers could do with revising their pricing structures.

“As a businessman, all I want from the postal system is a decent level of service. It should be efficient, affordable, and reliable. Do we have that at the moment? I’d say sometimes, but not always. So I hope this report makes an impact and leads the industry to tighten up a bit.”

The CAS briefing, Postal Services for Small and Medium Enterprises in Scotland is available here.