New website provides one-stop shop for postal surcharge concerns

The issue of parcel surcharging has long been a bone of contention for many internet shoppers. However, consumers across the United Kingdom, and especially those living in Northern Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are now set to benefit from the launch of a new website which provides a one-stop shop to acknowledge these concerns, which include:

  • blanket claims like 'free UK delivery' when many consumers are excluded
  • surcharges being added at the very end of the online buying process, or even after the sale has been completed
  • very high and disproportionate surcharges
  • refusals to deliver to remote or rural areas

Using funding from Trading Standards Scotland, the Highland Council Trading Standards team led on developing the website which has been set up after an investigation by the UK-wide Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP). The CPP brings together a wide range of consumer bodies from across the UK and is supported by both the UK and Scottish governments.

The site’s section for consumers has clear, readable information about consumer rights, with examples of each type of potentially problematical scenario. There are also 'self-help' tools for consumers to test whether they have a case and template letters to use to raise cases. There is a section to enable consumers to report unfair practices to the correct trading standards department or to the Advertising Standards Authority, as well as clear signposting to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline where consumers can access more advice.  

But the site is not just for consumers. There is a section for business with a range of information about how website operators can comply with the law and treat consumers fairly, plus some tips and template letters for businesses to use when they encounter unfair surcharges in their buying. The 'practitioners' section of the site is aimed at advisers, investigators, solicitors, policy-makers and others who want to look into the legal requirements in more depth.

The CPP project, led by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, found that surcharges were widely applied, often to large urban areas such as Aberdeen, Belfast and Inverness, and not just very remote parts. The new portal forms part of a suite of actions developed by the Consumer Protection Partnership in response to a raft of complaints around unfair surcharging. 

Source: The Highland Council

Business Companion guidance on the subject can be found in 'Delivery charges', which also contains a link to the website.