As you may know, under the Postal Services Act 2011 Royal Mail is a private organisation and it is the responsibility of the independent postal services regulator Ofcom to ensure that the company carries out its functions properly.
Ofcom does not, however, handle individual complaints, and advises that complaints about Royal Mail should be addressed in the first instance to the company directly. In the event the complaint concerns, Royal Mail’s regulated postal services and the company cannot provide a resolution, it can issue a ‘deadlock' notice that will allow the customer to ask the Independent Postal Redress scheme to investigate the case. Ofcom continues to scrutinise Royal Mail's performance closely.
The Universal Postal Service is a vital part of our economy and society. Individuals and communities across the UK rely on this service and the Government’s commitment to it has always been crystal clear.
To be completely clear, the Government currently has no plans to change the statutory minimum requirements of a universal postal service, which are set out in the Postal Services Act 2011. However, the Government accepts that the universal postal service is facing challenges, particularly given the decline in letter volumes, which have halved since privatisation in 2013.
Competition is important and can drive efficiency, but it should not be allowed to undermine the future viability of the universal service. The Government has given Ofcom the power to monitor what is happening in the postal market and if necessary, the power to intervene to level the playing field.
I am aware that Royal Mail strike action occurred for 19 days which started on 13 October, and took in Black Friday week, Cyber Monday and over the Christmas period. Industrial relations are a matter for Royal Mail and its workforce and their representatives and the Government encourages Royal Mail and its unions to reach an amicable agreement and in order to avoid disruption to businesses and consumers.
As you may be aware, in November Royal Mail announced a review of their 1,200 Customer Service Points to determine the optimum number of locations following a 50 per cent drop in footfall since the pandemic. After completing the first stage of the review, and considering a range of options, Royal Mail has decided to maintain the current estate of Customer Service Points as they seek to further improve their first-time delivery rates.
Following successful trials, Royal Mail will additionally roll out automatic next-day redeliveries for missed parcels in the coming months. This is designed to make it even easier for customers to receive parcels at home, without the need to travel to a Customer Service Point. This initiative builds on the introduction of a range of alternative delivery options for greater convenience in recent years, including free redelivery, delivery to a neighbour, the option to leave parcels in a Safeplace and inflight redirections through the Royal Mail App.
As footfall continues to decrease, the next stage of this review will focus on ensuring that Customer Service Point opening hours match customer demand.
Following a successful national trial, Royal Mail is adding unique barcodes to all their regular ‘everyday’ stamps to reinvent them for the future. The unique barcodes will facilitate operational efficiencies, enable the introduction of added security features, and pave the way for innovative services.
While non-barcoded stamps will be phased out, they will remain valid until 31 January 2023. Customers are encouraged to use their non-barcoded stamps before this date. In recognising that this may not be possible for everyone, alternatively, non-barcoded stamps can be exchanged for the new barcoded version through Royal Mail’s ‘Swap Out’ scheme. This scheme opened on 31 March 2022 and customers can use a Freepost address for swaps, ensuring accessibility.
This scheme allows for stamps purchased in good faith to be used at any time in the future, through a simple exchange process, and that adequate time has been provided for existing customers to adopt new changes.
I understand that the Government has no plans to renationalise Royal Mail. As you may be aware, operational and commercial decisions are a matter for Royal Mail's management.
You will be interested to know that one of the primary reasons for the sale was to enable Royal Mail to access the capital it needed to invest in and grow the business. Royal Mail has invested £2 billion in the firm since privatisation, with a further £1.8 billion investment in the UK’s postal service announced in 2019 to transform and grow the UK business.