Cost of sending letters “expensive” say majority of adults in Scotland

New research shows 15% of consumers struggling to afford postal services.

Over half of adults in Scotland believe the price of sending letters via the Royal Mail is expensive, according to new research by statutory consumer body Consumer Scotland.

A survey found approximately 68% said first class stamps were expensive when told the price, with 27% saying they were “far too expensive” and 40% saying they were “expensive”. Only a quarter (25%) said they were a “fair price” while one per cent said they were “cheap”.

The survey found 53% said second class stamps were “expensive” with 18% saying they were “far too expensive” and 35% saying they were “expensive”. Forty per cent said the product was a “fair price”.

When asked about Royal Mail parcel costs, six in 10 (60%) said sending 1st class parcels was “expensive” and four in 10 (45%) said sending 2nd class parcels was “expensive”.

Under the Postal Services Act 2011 the Royal Mail must provide a range of postal services at affordable prices.

For some consumers the price of sending letters and parcels appeared particularly challenging.

  • nearly one in five (19%) said they would find it difficult to afford to buy a book of second class stamps costing £5.44 when thinking about the following week
  • fifteen per cent of those who send letters or parcels said they had struggled to afford postal services in the last 12 months
  • just over a quarter (28%) of those who struggled said they had to forgo paying or using essentials, such as food or energy, to pay for postage

Research suggests postal services are particularly important to those in vulnerable circumstances, including those on low incomes.

And consumers who are disabled or with a long term health condition are significantly more likely than average in Scotland to send letters to local authorities, GPs, other healthcare professionals, or government departments.

Consumer Scotland’s research also found 30% of consumers regard redirection services as “much too expensive” with 38% saying the cost was “a little too expensive” and 24% saying it was a “fair price”.

Director of Policy and Advocacy for Consumer Scotland Douglas White said:

“Our research found the postal market remains an important service for consumers across Scotland, sending personal letters or cards to friends and family, or more formal correspondence.

“For some consumers it is clear the postal service remains a vital channel for engaging with government institutions, public services, financial services, insurance providers, utility companies and the welfare benefits system.

“The legislation makes it a requirement for Royal Mail to provide certain important services at affordable prices, but our research indicates a majority of consumers regard key postal services - including sending letters and parcels and paying for redirection services - as expensive.

“Given these results, and the recent increases in costs, it is important policymakers and regulators consider the price of postal products alongside the range of other cost of living pressures consumers in Scotland are experiencing to ensure postal services continue to provide a vital, affordable lifeline service for all consumers.”

Ofcom are currently consulting on second class post prices and Consumer Scotland will be responding to the consultation, including evidence on affordability.

Previous Consumer Scotland research, conducted at the time of the energy crisis, showed the same groups of consumers, including disabled people and those on lower incomes, can be vulnerable to the impact of rising prices across a number of different markets.


The affordability of the Universal Postal Service

Data was gathered through a YouGov plc survey between 20th February and 14th March 2023 with a sample size of 2,007 adults aged 16+ in Scotland. The figures were weighted to be representative of all adults in Scotland, based on age, gender, social grade and region.

Consumer Scotland is the statutory body for consumers in Scotland established in April 2022 under the Consumer Scotland Act 2020. It is a Non-Ministerial Office independent of government and accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

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