Regulation of the provision of post boxes

  • Start: 27 March 2013
  • Status: Statement published
  • End: 01 May 2013

This statement on the regulation of the provision of post boxes sets out our decision on extending regulatory protection to all UK delivery points via a modification to the designated universal service provider (DUSP) conditions.

Ofcom’s primary duty under the Postal Services Act 2011 (“the Act”) is to carry out our functions in relation to postal services in a way that we consider will secure the provision of a universal postal service. Section 29(6) of the Act requires Ofcom to “secure the provision of sufficient access points to meet the reasonable needs of users of the universal postal service”. “Access points” are any box or other facility provided for the purpose of accepting postal items into Royal Mail’s network. In practice, this means post boxes and post offices. Royal Mail currently has about 115,500 post boxes, which can be used to send letters and small packets, but not larger items or items requiring a signature. For avoidance of doubt, this statement relates to the network of post box access points and does not consider any issues in relation to post offices.

Royal Mail is currently required by DUSP condition 1.8.1 to provide sufficient access points to meet the reasonable needs of users of the universal postal service.2 Royal Mail is considered to have met its general obligation in DUSP 1.8.1 in relation to post boxes if it meets access point criteria set out in DUSP 1.8.2(a).

The access point criteria set out in DUSP 1.8.2(a) are 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”. 3 On average in the UK there are about 120 delivery points (or addresses) per square km. Therefore, the current criteria only cover postcode areas (“PCAs”) with a significantly higher than average density of delivery points.4 The criteria exclude most rural areas, and even some cities in PCAs with low overall delivery point density, for example Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Swansea.

On 27 March 2013, Ofcom issued a consultation setting out proposals for modifying the current access point criteria (DUSP 1.8) to extend regulatory protection to all UK delivery points. We proposed that:

  • there should be a post box within 0.5 miles by straight line distance of at least 98% of delivery points nationally; and
  • for the remaining 2% of delivery points, Royal Mail must provide sufficient access points or other means of access to the universal service (e.g. collection on delivery from very remote or isolated locations such as farmhouses) to meet the reasonable needs of users.

The consultation closed on 1 May 2013 and we received six responses. This statement summarises responses to the consultation and sets out our decision in regard to modifying DUSP 1.8.Based on our previous assessment as set out in the consultation document and analysis of consultation responses, Ofcom has decided to confirm the proposal set out in our consultation, subject to one minor modification to the proposed wording of the condition (see paragraph 2.15 below).

In order to give effect to this decision, this statement includes a notification modifying DUSP condition 1.

Ofcom is satisfied that the statutory requirements for modifying DUSP condition 1 are met.

The modification to DUSP condition 1 set out in Annex 2 will be effective from 13 June 2013.

Main documents

Supporting documents

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Responder name Type
Colne-Valley-Postal-History.pdf (PDF File, 14.4 KB) Organisation
Consumer_Focus.pdf (PDF File, 407.6 KB) Organisation
CWU.PDF (PDF File, 272.9 KB) Organisation
Royal_Mail.pdf (PDF File, 217.8 KB) Organisation
The_Letter_Box_Study_Group.pdf (PDF File, 111.1 KB) Organisation