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The Postcode Penalty: The Distance Travelled

Progress on parcel deliveries in Scotland 2012-2015

The latest in a series of reports into problems faced by consumers in Scotland when shopping online, this reports charts the progress of delivery charges from 2012-2015.

The UK online shopping market is one of the most developed in the world, with sales contributing up to 15% of total retail sales. This growing market is of particular importance to those living in rural and remote rural areas, as it brings the potential for consumers to benefit from the same level of choice enjoyed closer to population centres.

However these rural consumers often find that they are excluded from home delivery options, or face high delivery surcharges that can make online shopping uneconomical. Moreover, this is part of a range of extra costs faced by people in rural areas; rural household budgets need to be 10-40% higher in order to achieve a minimum acceptable living standard. 

The Citizens Advice Service in Scotland has been campaigning on the issue of unfair delivery charges since 2011. In this latest Consumer Futures Unit report we examine the same 534 online retailers identified by consumers in our 2012 research and assess progress.


Key findings

  • The problem of high delivery surcharges for consumers in rural and remote areas has not gone away, and the problem continues to impact the Scottish Highlands and Islands more than other rural areas of the UK.
  • Fewer retailers add a surcharge compared with three years ago. The proportion of retailers in our survey surcharging customers in the Highlands has dropped from 49.8% in 2012 to 44.1% in 2015. Island residents are surcharged by 53.1% of retailers now, down from 62% in 2012.
  • When a surcharge is applied, Highland and Island consumers pay more than they did three years ago, despite average delivery charges remaining static and falling in real terms. This results in these consumers paying roughly four times as much for delivery.
  • Surcharges for Highlands consumers have risen by 17.6% (10% adjusting for inflation) and by 15.8% (or 8.3% in real terms) for islands consumers since 2012.
  • Fewer retailers now refuse to deliver to the remote areas compared with 2012. Only 3.8% of retailers surveyed excluded some part of the Highlands from their delivery offering, while 10.9% excluded some part of the Scottish Islands.
David Moyes & Kate Morrison
Publication date
September 2015
Publication type