Ofcom have proposed new protections this morning to bring stronger guidance for parcel delivery and improve the way firms handle complaints.
The new rules hope to ensure disabled people are treated fairly by postal companies and there is regulatory certainty to allow Royal Mail to modernise, but with greater transparency on efficiency.
More than ten million parcels are delivered on an average day in the UK, and of this, Ofcom has found that almost two thirds of customers have experienced problems with deliveries in the last three months.
Around a quarter of senders find it difficult to make a complaint, or to contact parcel operators, when their delivery goes wrong. Two in five say their complaints are only partially resolved, while almost one in ten are left with their complaint completely unresolved.
Ofcom are therefore proposing new guidelines to help support people, especially disabled customers, who are almost 50 per cent more likely to experience significant problems with parcel deliveries.
Under new rules, postal operator must have clear advice of who to contact, what the complaints system will be and a trained member of staff to deal with complaints.
The watchdog is also proposing a new requirement for parcel firms to establish, publish and comply with clear and effective policies and procedures for the fair treatment of disabled customers.
Ofcom has been the postal regulator for more than ten years now, under the Postal Services Act, and as the universal service provider, there is a particularly close eye on the Royal Mail, which is subject to more regulation than other operators.
For example, Ofcom can set strict annual delivery targets on Royal Mail and impose caps on second-class stamp prices. Just last year, Ofcom fined Royal Mail £1.5m for missing its 2018/19 first-class delivery target, and makes it clear that it is ready to impose fines if rules are not met.
Nonetheless, this morning’s announcement stated that rather than extending powers, Ofcom will be maintaining the current framework for regulating Royal Mail for a further five years.
This has been announced to ensure that Royal Mail has commercial flexibility to respond to the changing market and modernise; Ofcom has urged the postal service to outline its long-term goals and efficiency ambitions.
A spokesperson for Ofcom told City A.M. that it is a balance between monitoring the delivery market and also allowing competition to enable operators to be profitable and drive forward innovation.
Just last month, Royal Mail reported a slow but steady recovery and forecast full-year profit for its UK business of about £500m.
A Hermes spokesperson told City A.M.: “We welcome these proposals that are in line with steps we are already undertaking to improve the consumer journey”.
A Yodel spokesperson said: “Providing an excellent service for customers as eCommerce grows further remains our priority and we support Ofcom’s consultation that will help to ensure high standards are upheld across the industry.”
Amazon and DPD have been contacted for comment on the new rules.