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Call for fairer parcel charges for rural Scotland

Published: 2 Nov 2015 15:34

More work needed to deliver fairer parcel prices.

The parcel delivery market in Scotland must work in the interests of both consumers and business, Business Minister Fergus Ewing has said.

Customers in the Highlands and Islands are still facing disproportionate and unfairly high delivery costs when they are buying online.

In line with the recommendations of the recent Citizens Advice Scotland's (CAS) The Postcode Penalty: The Distance Travelled report, the Scottish Government is supporting CAS in holding a Scottish workshop on potential practical measures to address parcel delivery issues in the Highlands and Islands, which is likely to take place in early 2016.

Mr Ewing once again urged businesses to sign up to the Statement of Principles for Parcel Deliveries, which sets out guidelines calling on business to avoid charging disproportionate delivery costs, provide greater transparency and provide the widest possible delivery coverage.

Mr Ewing said;

"It is not fair that communities in the Highlands and Islands continue to be charged an excessive amount when ordering the same items as people in other areas of Scotland and the UK.

"Delivery surcharges not only penalise rural consumers, but also businesses in rural areas are disproportionately affected.

"Citizens Advice Scotland have recently demonstrated that fewer online retailers now impose a surcharge for delivery to remote and rural communities, which is to be welcomed. However, where surcharges are still applied, such charges are now higher than they were three years ago, despite average delivery charges falling in real terms.

"We are studying the recommendations of their recent report carefully and have already had discussions with them and other stakeholders to explore a range of sustainable solutions for rural communities.

"We welcomed the UK Government's decision to adopt our Statement of Principles across the whole of the UK, and we continue to encourage them to do more to increase buy-in of the Principles and the recommendations of the recent Citizens Advice Scotland report on parcel deliveries. This is vital as many internet retailers are based outside of Scotland.

"These Principles should apply so that we can have better universality of charges and do not continue to discriminate against areas of periphery, rurality or island living. Retailers should take on board the Principles, and in turn customers, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, will receive a better service."

David Moyes, Policy Officer for Citizens Advice Scotland said;

"For a number of years we have campaigned to highlight the impact of high delivery charges on rural consumers. Individuals and businesses continue to be frustrated by unexpected or unaffordable charges, and also by poor communications and misleading price information from some online retailers and delivery companies.

"Throughout our campaigning on this issue we have worked with a number of partners, including the Scottish Government. We welcome their commitment to finding solutions that will help level the playing field for Scotland's rural businesses and consumers."

Notes to editors

The statement of principles is available to view online at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Parcel%20DeliveryinRemoteandRuralAreas