Royal Mail delivery changes

Published: 19 January 2022

Update 11 August 2021 – regulatory emergency period

The onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in March 2020 started a ‘regulatory emergency period’ under the Postal Services Act 2011. The regulatory conditions relating to the universal postal service provide that Royal Mail is not required to sustain these services without interruption, suspension, or restriction in the event of an emergency.

Throughout the course of the pandemic we have closely monitored its impacts on Royal Mail, which included higher than usual absence rates and operational challenges associated with complying with social distancing regulations. We scrutinised Royal Mail’s performance and the mitigating measures it put in place to provide as good a service as it could to postal users under the circumstances. We welcome the significantly better performance in recent months, as the impacts of Covid-19 receded and as Royal Mail implemented an improvement plan.

Given these improvements, and in light of recent reductions in the level of legal restrictions across the UK, we consider that the regulatory emergency period should be treated as coming to an end on 31 August 2021. Accordingly, normal regulatory arrangements will apply from 1 September 2021. Our approach to compliance monitoring will continue to be pragmatic and proportionate, taking account of any relevant matters beyond Royal Mail’s control that impact on its performance, including any continuing impacts of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as noted in our Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin, we have reviewed Royal Mail’s performance against its quality of service targets during 2020/21 and, in light of the impacts of Covid-19 throughout the year, we have decided not to open an investigation.

Ofcom has published a statement, following reports of delays to Royal Mail deliveries during the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

“This is clearly a very difficult time for people across the country, including many businesses and their workforces. The pandemic has placed significant pressure on Royal Mail – particularly in recent weeks as cases have risen sharply. So it’s important the company takes all necessary steps to keep both its staff and customers safe.

“We have recognised this as an emergency situation under our regulatory framework, which means Royal Mail can change its operations to manage the challenges it faces, without the need for formal Ofcom authorisation. We continue to monitor Royal Mail’s performance carefully and will remain in close contact with the company to ensure it is providing the very best service it can to customers.”

Royal Mail announced on 28 April 2020 a temporary reduction in the frequency of letter delivery from six to five days a week, with the change removing the Saturday letter delivery. This was in response to issues caused by the Covid-19 crisis, including high levels of absences and necessary social distancing measures.

Under the Postal Services Act 2011, the regulatory conditions relating to the universal postal service provide that Royal Mail is not required to sustain these services without interruption, suspension or restriction in the event of an emergency.

Ofcom has acknowledged in this context that the Covid-19 pandemic created an emergency situation. Accordingly, the statutory framework allows Royal Mail to modify its operations without formal authorisation, if it considers this necessary to respond to the emergency challenges it faces in sustaining the universal postal service.

We continue to keep any measures taken in response to the emergency under review as the situation develops.

Update 15 June 2020

Royal Mail has resumed the Saturday delivery of letters, as of 13 June 2020.

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