Royal Mail's quality of service performance in 2020/21

11 August 2021

Closed

Investigation into Royal Mail's quality of service performance in 2020/21
Case opened 11 August 2021
Case closed 11 August 2021
Summary

This matter relates to Royal Mail’s quality of service performance during 2020/21.

Relevant legal provision(s)

DUSP condition 1.9.1, and Schedule 7 to the Postal Services Act 2011.

During the reporting year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, Royal Mail was unable to meet the quality of service performance targets for the universal postal service set out in regulation. In particular, during this period Royal Mail delivered 74.7% of first class items within one working day of collection (against a target of 93%) and 93.7% of second class items within three working days of collection (against a target of 98.5%).

As Ofcom has noted before in its most recent Annual Monitoring Update (PDF, 1.3 MB), this was a period during which Royal Mail’s performance levels were substantially affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result of the public health measures put in place by the UK and devolved governments.

The pandemic was treated as an emergency for the purposes of the regulatory and statutory postal framework. Accordingly, during that period, Royal Mail was not required to sustain universal postal services without ‘interruption, suspension or restriction’ and could, as a result, take steps to temporarily reduce service levels or amend product specifications where necessary.

Ofcom takes compliance with quality of service requirements seriously and we acknowledge that consumer harm can result when service levels fall below the standards that are expected of Royal Mail. In considering whether Royal Mail has complied with its regulatory obligations, we will however take into account factors that are beyond its control and where it has taken sufficient action to mitigate as far as possible the impact of such factors on its performance (PDF, 638.1 KB) (see paragraphs 3.13 to 3.27).

Throughout 2020/21, Ofcom engaged closely with Royal Mail to monitor both the impact of the pandemic on Royal Mail and the specific steps it was taking to mitigate those impacts on its service levels.

In particular, we note the following factors which impacted Royal Mail during 2020/21:

  • As a result of illness, shielding and self-isolation requirements, Royal Mail’s staff absence level was substantially elevated throughout the relevant period;
  • For certain periods of the year, as a result of stay-at-home lockdown measures and the closure of non-essential retail, Royal Mail was required to process an unforeseeable and significantly increased volume of parcels, which disrupted its delivery network; and
  • As a result of social distancing requirements, Royal Mail was unable to make use of certain delivery processes upon which it relied (including the use of shared vehicles).

In each case, taking account of the uniquely difficult circumstances of the pandemic, we consider these are factors beyond Royal Mail’s control and which had a substantial impact on quality of service.

In that context, Ofcom has decided it is not appropriate to open an investigation of Royal Mail’s service levels during 2020/21.


Case leader

Tom Cherry (thomas.cherry@ofcom.org.uk)

Case reference Not applicable