AS an islander and a former postman, I am interested in the debate regarding extra delivery charges to rural Scotland ("One million Scots ripped off by parcel delivery fees", The Herald, December 19).
My understanding from frequent querying of why this happens is that many suppliers enter into contracts with non-national carriers who are only happy to operate within the areas outlined by England's major cities. This is on the basis that economies of scale in relation to quantity and distance allow the carrier to profit handsomely while undercutting Parcelforce on the busiest and/or shortest routes.
But then the carrier stipulates that its customer – the supplier – must use it for all deliveries. Thus it cherry-picks where it will deliver while denying the supplier the choice of carriers (and therefore how the supplier can best service its customers).
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Even when these charges are agreed and an order is placed, these carriers are not the ones which deliver – they either have sub-contracts with other regional carriers (further increasing the cost to the customer as they take their cut), or they pass the goods to Parcelforce who then deliver at the normal universal rate. We are often paying for someone to carry a package from a pick-up point to the nearest post office.
The bottom line is that Parcelforce is undercut on short-distance carriage but carrying the burden disproportionately of long-haul unprofitable deliveries. This could be readily rectified by making such restrictive practices illegal (if indeed they are not already). Firms with goods to shift would receive additional custom and consumers would get a fairer deal.
In reality pressure for this has to come from suppliers which are tied to these practices, as well as consumers.
This is not the first time Citizens Advice Scotland has raised this – but it's way past time it pushed the Office of Fair Trading hard to actually do something.