Tackling unfair delivery charges – Business Minister Jamie Hepburn
With the festive season in full swing, buying presents is at the forefront of our minds. And as more of us choose to buy our gifts online, I am concerned that there is still a difference in how parcels are delivered in rural and island areas of Scotland compared to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Recent analysis by the Scottish Parliament estimated that, in 2019, parcel delivery surcharging cost Scotland an extra £40 million, and that this figure has risen year-on-year since 2017 when it was £36 million.
Unjustified charging is frustrating and discriminatory for consumers, and is also a barrier to small businesses operating in rural areas and on our islands. It is hugely unfair.
Regardless of what they’re buying, people across Scotland deserve to pay a reasonable rate to have their parcels delivered. They also have a right to know what their delivery choices are before deciding to buy.
This is why the Scottish Government is committed to doing all we can to eliminate unfair delivery charges and ensure parcel deliveries work for everyone.
Although the power to regulate parcel delivery surcharging is reserved to the UK Government, our ‘Fairer Deliveries for All’ action plan sets out the Scottish Government’s ambition to tackle this issue and protect consumers and small businesses.
The plan – which we published last year – focuses on tackling unfair practices and the root causes that make delivering to remote and island areas difficult. It contains a series of practical actions designed to make the market more transparent and to help online shoppers recognise and act upon unfair or misleading delivery costs. Whilst I recognise that the majority of businesses want to treat their customers well, I hope these actions make it easier for consumers to avoid traders that seek to profit through unfair means.
We are also committed to understanding the issue of postcode misclassifications, which can result in addresses being identified as remote areas or islands even where they are not. This is a complex issue and work is in the early stages, but it offers potential to make a real difference to consumers who are being wrongly overcharged.
These are important and practical steps, but we also will continue to put pressure on the UK Government to use its powers to better protect consumers and businesses. Parallel to this, we will build on existing partnerships with UK regulators and consumer organisations to ensure that Scottish specific needs are heard.
There is no doubt this is a difficult issue to solve, but by working together, I truly believe we can achieve the positive change consumers and businesses in Scotland need.