This Government is determined to make the most of its consumer advocacy powers to drive forward a more robust and coherent consumer and competition policy, focused on tackling the most prevalent and detrimental consumer problems.
Unfair parcel delivery charges is one of these consumer problems.
That is why I launched Fairer Deliveries For All: An Action Plan in November 2018. This Plan had eight clear actions aimed at tackling the long-standing and well-established problem in Scotland, namely that of the unjustified and unfair treatment of postal deliveries to many of our rural and remote areas.
This Progress Statement provides an update on these actions. The key highlight for me is the launch of the interactive data hub and parcel delivery map. This is a first of its kind website that will finally allow users to track both discrepancies between and within geographic areas and to establish if a delivery price is outwith what should reasonably be expected. This map will be a powerful tool for pinpointing unfair delivery charge hotspots. There will be no hiding places for unscrupulous businesses now.
The Scottish Government cannot, and should not, solve the parcel delivery problem by itself - collaboration and genuine commitment is needed by all those with a part to play.
This is why I accepted an invite from Richard Lochhead, Moray MSP to visit the IV/AB postcode boundary at Orton on 15 August 2019. I saw at first-hand a clear example of this postcode anomaly. Delivery lorries pass the homes in Orton, which have an IV postcode, where they either charge or won’t drop-off at all, to get to an Aberdeen postcode, which is literally just the other side of a field. To further explore this type of anomaly I’m delighted to announce that Citizens Advice Scotland will be carrying out research this coming year into postcode misclassification.
There is cross-Party support in Westminster, as there is in Holyrood, for fairer delivery charges. Only last year a Westminster Hall Debate was held on 2 July which was followed by a Scottish Parliament Members’ Debate on 4 December 2019 on parcel delivery charges. As the parcel market is reserved to the UK Government, only the Ministers there can compel the change that we need in Scotland. That is why I am so disappointed that in my dealings with the UK Government Ministers they still do not see the need for regulation.
Through the actions in the Plan we are compiling an evidence base to make the compelling case for regulation to the UK Government and I will continue to make this case at every opportunity I can.
It is not only the Action Plan we have as a tool to tackle unfair parcel delivery charges. Going forward we will have Consumer Scotland. The Consumer Scotland Bill (now Act) was introduced into Parliament on 5 June 2019, passed Stage 3 unanimously on 6 May 2020 and a month later on 9 June received Royal Assent. This new body will represent the views of consumers and take an evidence-based approach to tackling the most serious issues of consumer harm in Scotland.
It would be remiss of me not to make mention of the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact that has had on every one of us. I would like to thank one group of unsung heroes that continued to provide an invaluable service during the lockdown period – the delivery drivers. Due to the restrictions placed on consumers, online shopping increased dramatically and the delivery drivers really stepped up their daily deliveries for the people of Scotland. These deliveries can provide a vital lifeline to those self-isolating, particularly people who may be vulnerable.
Let me finish by reiterating that collaboration is the only way that we can successfully implement change. I urge all those involved in parcel deliveries to come and work together to ensure fairer deliveries for all.