Businesses in Scotland are being hit hard by the 'postcode penalty' of high delivery charges – with a new project to assess the scale of the problem announced today by Citizens Advice Scotland.
Over the last three years CAS have been highlighting the impact of this problem on individual consumers. But it also hurts the business community. So today we are launching a special online survey that is just for businesses in Scotland, allowing them to have their say so we can assess the extent of the problem.
The survey is the first of its kind in Scotland, and is being backed by Trading Standards and a number of local Chambers of Commerce - all of whom are urging their members to complete the survey, at tinyurl.com/DeliveryCosts
CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
"We’ve been campaigning for years on this issue of high delivery charges, and making a lot of progress. In 2011/12 we collected evidence from over 3,000 Scots, and published research which found that delivery firms applied huge additional charges to postcode areas that included 1 million Scots. Deliveries to some of these areas have mark-ups of over 500% more than the standard costs.
"That study also found that many delivery companies refused to deliver to parts of Scotland at all, and others were unclear or misleading about what their charges were.
"Until now we have mainly focused on the impact this has on individual consumers. But we have also been contacted by many businesses, particularly small business. High delivery charges can be absolutely devastating for them – both when sending and receiving parcels.
"We estimate that there are well over 20,000 businesses that could be affected. We want to assess how bad this problem is, so we are today opening a survey that is just for businesses. It's their chance to have their say and contribute their evidence to our campaign. Throughout the campaign we have said that Scots don't want 'special treatment'. All they want is a fair deal. We are determined to ensure they get that.”
The survey is at: tinyurl.com/DeliveryCosts
Hard copies are also available at all CABs in Scotland and to download at the bottom of this page.
The survey is open until 5pm on Friday 14 March, and is open to any business, anywhere in Scotland.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
The report CAS published in 2012, Postcode Penalty, can be read at /publications/postcode-penalty
According to government figures there are 20,665 businesses in remote and rural Scotland, of which 20,145 are classed as small businesses. However, our research has shown that, as the charges are applied by postcode, its not just remote and rural areas which are hit, but large population centres too - like Aberdeen and Inverness. Nor is the problem restricted to the far north; the postcodes affected include areas covering most of Scotland.
HISTORY OF THIS CAMPAIGN
- In 2010 a staff member at Skye & Lochalsh CAB was charged a ludicrously high cost for delivery of something she had bought online. This was not unusual, but it was one charge too many, and she decided to do something about it.
- As the CAB works for consumers, she persuaded her colleagues to run a survey of local peoples' experience of this issue. This received an overwhelming response, which the CAB reported to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
- CAS sent the survey to other rural CABs - including those in Nairn, Caithness, Dingwall, Orkney and Turriff. All of these ran the survey locally, and all received similar high responses.
- CAS then decided to run a national version, which broke all records for responses to surveys of this kind. In just four months they received over 3,000 responses from Scots who were livid about the issue and delighted to have a chance to say so.
- Other groups were also campaigning on the issue, including Highland Council, Consumer Focus and the Office of Fair Trading. We joined with them to pool our evidence and fight a broad-fronted campaign.
- In late 2012 CAS published our detailed evidence in the report, 'Postcode Penalty,' which found the problem was much wider than many had thought - hitting 1 million Scots.
- We have taken this evidence to regular meetings with ministers at both UK and Scottish governments, the postal regulators, Ofcom, and many delivery companies as well.
- There have also been a number of motions and questions in both parliaments based on our campaign - most recently Sir Robert Smith MP's private member’s bill last year and a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament, where the campaign was praised by the First Minister. All political parties have expressed their support for it.
- Meanwhile, the Scottish CAB service has taken on a number of new responsibilities for consumer work in general. This has given us new opportunities to push this campaign and demand action.
- We continue to fight on the issue, and believe we can make much more progress. This effort to assess the business evidence is the latest arm of our campaign, and an important one.
- When we have collected and published the evidence we will take it again to ministers and delivery companies, to back up the significant base of evidence we already have from consumers.
- Throughout the campaign we have said that Scots don't want 'special treatment'. All they want is a fair deal. We are determined to ensure they get that.
Note on Transfer of Consumer Responsibilities
In April 2014 the UK Government will transfer responsibility for speaking out for consumers across post, energy and, in Scotland, water to Citizens Advice Scotland and Citizens Advice (England and Wales). Citizens Advice Scotland will also take on a Great Britain-wide helpline for complex energy or post complaints. Both of these are currently the responsibility of an organisation called Consumer Futures, which will be absorbed into the Citizens Advice service. This is the last in a series of Government reforms to make it easier for consumers to know where to turn for help, and ensure they have an effective champion. We've already beefed up our role in representing consumers across other issues like payday loans, and now provide an advice service for people with consumer problems which can be accessed via 03454 04 05 06 or www.citizensadvice.org.uk.