Warning that Ofcom proposals could harm remote communities

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Speaking as Ofcom’s consultation on ‘Securing the Universal Service Obligation’ closes today (Thursday) SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, has warned that the proposed changes could leave rural and remote communities with a second class postal service.

As part of a consultation on the future of the universal service obligation Ofcom are proposing to give Royal Mail full commercial freedom to determine contracts with large companies and other postal providers as to what they will charge for the final delivery of items.

Ofcom suggest there should be no cap on prices for the vast majority of Royal Mail’s services, including business post, bulk mail, and large letters and parcels sent second class.

Mr Weir has expressed concern that this could lead to higher prices in rural and remote areas and has raised the matter at a meeting with Ofcom.

Commenting, Mike Weir said:

“Everyone understands that it is more expensive to deliver items to rural and remote areas, but up to now we have always had a one price anywhere policy which ensured that we did not have the situation that has developed in the parcels market where some companies will not deliver to the
Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“Under the Ofcom proposals Royal Mail will be able to negotiate a contact directly with other companies but it does appear that it is the intention of Ofcom that such contracts should be cost reflective, which means that we could reach a situation where different prices were being quoted for
different areas.

“Ofcom’s attitude appears to be that Royal Mail could not raise the costs too high or large companies may simply go fully electronic and use email and the internet.  That does not take account of the fact that the postal service serves both senders and recipients and many recipients, especially in more remote areas, do not have access to fast broadband, or indeed broadband at all.

“Meanwhile, the removal of the cap would have very serious consequences for small businesses who rely heavily on Royal Mail’s services and the proposals come at a time when many are already under real pressure.”

The consultation on Ofcom’s proposals closes at 5pm on 5th January and Mr Weir is encouraging all those interested to make representations which can be done at:
https://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/securing-the-postal-service/howtorespond/form