Over the last decade, online purchases have grown from around 5% of total retail sales in the UK to almost 20%. Despite this increase in online sales, complaints around parcel deliveries are still a prominent issue. The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has estimated that the additional cost to Scottish consumers of parcel delivery surcharges has increased year on year, from £36.3 million (2017) to £38 million (2018) and to £40.1 million (2019).
Although this is a reserved area to Westminster, most of the issues faced are in the remote and rural areas of Scotland. There is cross-Party agreement within the Scottish Parliament that more needs to be done to tackle this issue. On 4 December 2019 a Members’ Business Debate on Unfair Delivery Charges highlighted a variety of examples from Members’ constituents about parcel delivery issues such as:
“Delivery charge to postcode DD9 for a futon costing £269 was £189 with the reason given that the person lived outside mainland England.”
“Plastic horse connectors costing £4.99 however £15 delivery charge as parcel was being sent to island of Bute.”
“Business owner surcharged more than the cost of the original order.”
When the Scottish Government held Fair Delivery Day on 26 November 2018, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP, launched Fairer Deliveries for All: An Action Plan. This Plan set out a series of actions designed to tackle these long-standing issue of unfair delivery charges in remote and rural areas of Scotland.
In developing this Plan, the Scottish Government acknowledges that there are real and genuine challenges in delivering parcels to remote and rural areas. Difficulties accessing destinations, long distances for drivers to travel, and overall lower delivery volumes are all legitimate considerations for retailers and delivery companies. At the same time, it is also recognised that some charges – or surcharges – do not accurately reflect the true costs of delivery: whether that is because rogue traders unfairly raise prices (i.e. a degree of profiteering); or perhaps because it has become standard industry practice to raise prices unduly for certain areas or postcodes; or because current postcode mapping does not always accurately reflect location information.
The actions therefore fall into two categories:
i. actions to reduce unjustified delivery discrepancies for people across Scotland; and
ii. actions to reduce justified discrepancies by trying to tackle some of the underlying challenges inherent in rural and remote delivery.
Eight actions were developed to deliver these aims and will continue the momentum of tackling unjust delivery costs faced by many in Scotland. These cover a range of areas, from empowering consumers to addressing some of the root causes of unfair practices. Taken together, they represent a powerful potential to bring real change.
This Progress Statement provides an update on each of the eight actions. It is published more than a year after the original Fair Delivery Day as Fair Delivery Day 2019 had to be postponed due to the UK General Election which was held on 12 December 2019 and the restrictions that apply during the pre-election period. Fair Delivery Day was then re-arranged for 9 April 2020. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic this event was cancelled; and work had to be reprioritised. As restrictions are still in place in relation to Covid-19 it is not appropriate to hold a physical event as planned.
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