Mature woman passing over packages to a customer at his front door

Stronger protections and fairer treatment for parcel customers

Published: 18 July 2022
Last updated: 7 December 2023
  • Strengthened Ofcom guidance to drive improvements in how delivery firms handle complaints
  • New rules to ensure disabled people are treated fairly by postal companies
  • Regulatory certainty to allow Royal Mail to modernise, but extra requirements to report on efficiency

Parcel firms must get better at handling complaints, Ofcom warns today, as we confirm new measures to help improve service standards in the industry.

Postal users and online shoppers increasingly rely on parcel deliveries, so it is crucial that delivery firms have strong systems in place to deal with any problems.

Customers’ overall satisfaction with delivery services is high as competition in the parcels market has increased, but Ofcom has identified a series of problems with the way that complaints are currently handled across the industry.

Our research from last year found that almost two thirds (64%) of customers had problems with deliveries over a three-month period.

Around a quarter of senders found it difficult to make a complaint, or to contact parcel operators, when their delivery didn’t go to plan. Two in five said their complaints are only partially resolved, while almost one in ten are left with their complaint completely unresolved.

Deliveries are part and parcel of our daily lives. But the customer service that some people have been getting when a delivery goes wrong simply hasn’t been good enough. So we’re strengthening our regulations to make sure people are treated fairly by delivery firms.

If we’re not satisfied with how parcel companies respond, they could face enforcement action or tighter rules in future.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Networks and Communications Group Director

Improving the complaints process

To improve consumer protections, Ofcom is introducing new guidance in addition to our existing rules, which states that all postal operators must have a simple and transparent complaints process in place.

In practice, this means we expect parcel customers to be:

  • told who to contact, and what channels they can use to make a complaint;
  • told what the complaint process will be, and how long it will take to resolve;
  • dealt with by staff who have received appropriate training.

If we do not see substantial improvements in customer service and complaints handling as a result of these changes, we will consider enforcement action or further regulation.

Meeting disabled customers' needs

We are also introducing a new requirement for parcel firms to establish, publish and comply with clear and effective policies and procedures for the fair treatment of disabled customers.

Disabled people are more likely to experience parcel delivery problems than non-disabled customers. These include couriers not allowing enough time at the door, parcels being left in inaccessible places, and operators not acting on specific delivery instructions provided to them.

Under the new rules, postal operators must have policies and procedures in place to ensure disabled customers can communicate their delivery needs to them, and firms will need to ensure couriers will meet those needs when delivering parcels.

Royal Mail regulation

Ofcom has also set out how we will regulate Royal Mail over the next five years. As the universal service provider, it is subject to more regulation than other postal operators.

This includes Ofcom continuing to set strict annual delivery targets and to impose a cap on second-class stamp prices.

Our review has found that these safeguards continue to be the best way to protect people and businesses that use the universal service.

It is also important that, as competition increases and the postal market continues to evolve, Royal Mail has the commercial flexibility to deliver efficiency improvements and modernise its operations.

This is necessary to meet the challenges of providing a financially sustainable universal service, which requires the delivery of letters six days a week and parcels five days a week to every address in the UK.

Consequently, we have strengthened our monitoring requirements to gain a deeper understanding of the financial sustainability and efficiency of the universal service.

Our new framework provides a stable regulatory environment, supporting investment by all postal operators. It ensures that Royal Mail competes on a level playing field, allowing competition to drive benefits to postal users.

Notes to editors

  1. Our guidance on customer complaints handling will come into effect from 1 April 2023 and our new protection for disabled consumers from 1 November 2023.
  2. Royal Mail is required by Ofcom to deliver at least 93% of first-class post – across the UK – within one working day of collection, and 98.5% of second-class post within three working days, assessed over the whole financial year (excluding the Christmas period). The safeguard price cap for second-class stamps is currently set at 68p.
  3. Ofcom opened an investigation on 31 May 2022 into Royal Mail’s performance against its USO targets in 2021/22.
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