Ofcom increases protection for rural post boxes

13 June 2013

Ofcom has today introduced increased protection for consumers against the removal of post boxes in rural areas.

Ofcom already requires Royal Mail to provide a sufficient number of post boxes in appropriate locations to meet the needs of UK postal users. Specific criteria on the location and density of post boxes set out how Royal Mail must meet its obligation.

Prior to today's announcement, the previous criteria1 applied in only 61 of the 121 postcode areas in the UK.2 Those excluded postcodes mostly covered rural areas, but some major cities such as Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Swansea were also not protected.

Following consultation, Ofcom has today increased regulatory protection for post boxes by introducing new criteria that will apply nationwide for the first time.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom Consumer Group Director, said: "Our decision means that consumers and businesses, particularly in rural communities, will benefit from extended protection for post boxes.

"It's vital that everyone has suitable access to post boxes and, for the first time, protection will apply across the UK."

New criteria to protect post boxes

Users of post boxes in rural areas and those in previously excluded urban areas will be afforded greater protection against the removal of post boxes under the new rules. The requirements now specify that:

  • there must be a post box within half a mile of at least 98% of ‘delivery points’ (usually the letter box of an address) nationally; and
  • for the remaining 2% of delivery points, Royal Mail must provide sufficient post boxes or other means of access to the universal service (e.g. collection on delivery3) to meet the reasonable needs of those users, having regard to the costs and operational practicalities of doing so.

These requirements are in line with the levels of post box access already provided by Royal Mail, and will ensure Royal Mail continues to provide sufficient post boxes in the future.



  1. Under previous criteria, Royal Mail was required by DUSP condition 1.8.1 to provide sufficient access points to meet the reasonable needs of users of the universal postal service. Royal Mail was considered to have met its general obligation in DUSP 1.8.1 in relation to post boxes if it met access point criteria set out in DUSP 1.8.2(a). The previous access point criteria set out in DUSP 1.8.2(a) was that: "in each postcode area where the delivery point density is not less than 200 delivery points per square kilometre, not less than 99% of users of postal services are within 500 metres of a letter box". This meant that it applied only in postcode areas with a delivery point density of 200 delivery points per square kilometre or more and that less densely populated postcode areas, including some major towns and cities located in largely rural postcode areas, were excluded from the previous protection.
  2. A postcode area refers to the first letter(s) in a postcode, for example "SE" in the postcode of Ofcom’s address, SE1 9HA.
  3. Collection on delivery refers to a case where the postal deliverer makes a final collection of mail at the same time as delivering to that area.