Get involved: Ofcom postal services review

Get involved: Ofcom postal services review

The current framework for the regulation of UK postal services expires in March next year. Mails regulator Ofcom, has published their "Call for Inputs" and this work will set the regulatory framework for postal services until 2027.

Colleagues at Post Office have reviewed the Ofcom request and we will participate and provide input before the deadline in May. This will be the first time we will contribute and it’s important that we take part, as our branches have a unique customer-facing role in the postal sector and as we start to implement changes in the second Mails Distribution Agreement signed in December.

We want to work with you, our Postmasters, to shape our response to Ofcom.

What is Post Office seeking Postmaster views on?
Post Office will participate as a non-regulated party, to lobby for changes that benefit (and against those that adversely affect) customers, Postmasters and Post Office’s business. We are looking for your views in the key areas below.

For each issue, we want to know how customers would feel and react to these changes, and what impact it will have on your business.

  1. Reducing the frequency of deliveries, for example Royal Mail stop delivering letters and large letters on a Saturday
  2. The benefits and disadvantages of online discounts, for example, the price for some products in branch are between 10-30 pence higher than the price available on Royal Mails website for the same products
  3. A tracking facility is made available for Royal Mail 1st and 2nd class parcels for better customer experience
  4. A solution is introduced that ensures parcels are returned quickly/cheaply if by error they are misdirected/incorrectly segregated in branch (more likely as we expand our pick-up and drop-off network) and work with carriers other than Royal Mail.

How can I provide feedback?
Postmasters can input independently, however, we believe collective views will be more powerful. There are a number of ways we will gather Postmaster views. This includes:

  1. Our mails team are attending Regional Postmaster Forums to discuss further and seek views and evidence.
  2. For any Postmasters not involved in an existing forum, please provide feedback/comments below – please provide your Branch code and we will contact you to discuss further.

We also will review initial feedback submitted and will consider holding a drop-in session in April so you can share your views.

We will collate views at the end of April, for final submission in May. Ofcom intend to publish a full consultation on the future regulation of postal services later this year, before concluding their review in 2022.

Why is Ofcom reviewing this now?
Ofcom’s goal is to make sure millions of postal users benefit from a universal service that meets their needs. Ofcom extended the current regime in 2017 with no material changes and since then, there have been significant developments in the postal market. Letter volumes have fallen by more than 25%, with 53% of residential users now sending one letter or fewer per month. At the same time, growth in online shopping has seen parcel volumes increase at an annual rate of around ten per cent. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted these trends further.

What is else is being reviewed?
Ofcom is largely supporting a continuation of the status quo. They are not seeking input on the reduction of Saturday deliveries for letters, this will be a matter for Government and Parliament. Ofcom is seeking confirmation through general questions to test if the current framework remains broadly fit for purpose, and some of the specific areas they are seeking input on include:

  1. Whether second-class current price cap remains adequate
  2. If the price of redirections service is excessive
  3. If consumers are being well served by the parcels market or if they need regulatory protection
  4. If tracking, now widespread, should be a permitted feature of the USO parcels services
  5. If there is a need for any extension or change to the regulation of downstream access services currently mandated for letters which means that Royal Mail has to allow other carriers to use its network to drop of bulk letters and has to deliver them to the UK addresses utilising its final mile delivery network.

The full document is c100 pages and is available to read here.

If you have any questions, views or opinions on the above four areas – please get involved.