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Swinson: Shoppers must get fair deliveries

Shoppers living in some of the more remote parts of the UK are to get more transparency on delivery charges for their online purchases. 

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson is today (31 July 2014) visiting a John Lewis Customer Delivery Hub in Glasgow where she will launch the UK statement of principles for parcel deliveries.

The principles set out best practice for businesses - including couriers, e-retailers and parcel delivery firms - on how they can make sure that delivery charges for consumers in remote communities are clearer and more transparent. It will mean shoppers buying online will be charged a fair delivery price, be given delivery cost information upfront and get clear directions to the terms and conditions. Online retailers should also make sure that their pricing policies do not discriminate against consumers on the basis of location.

The Interactive Media Retail Group (IMRG), which represents the UK online retail industry, forecast that the cost to business as a result of consumers abandoning their online purchases was £6 billion in 2013 alone. Research from 2012 showed that at least 1 million people in Scotland faced additional surcharges, delayed parcels or are even refused delivery altogether for their delivery. In Scotland 57.4 million orders worth £2.5 billion are made online each year.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:

Too many shoppers, especially in rural parts of Scotland, have faced ridiculous delivery charges when buying online. Delivery charges should be clear upfront, so people can decide to shop elsewhere if they feel the charges are excessive.

Retailers need to get this right for shoppers across the whole of the UK and especially consider how they can best serve their customers in rural and island communities. Better transparency on charges will help businesses keep loyal customers and boost their reputation.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

Consumers should not be paying over the odds for delivery costs just because of where they live. Firms being more transparent about costs and whether they actually deliver should help people avoid any nasty surprises at the checkout and afterwards. This will help people make informed decisions about who they buy from and shine a light on those businesses who behave fairly.

Margaret Lynch, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said:

We strongly welcome the support this statement of principles has now received from the UK government.

This UK-wide statement is recognition that unfair prices and practices for parcels should not and will not be tolerated by consumers, regardless of where they live and where they choose to buy their goods from.

Consumers in Scotland know all too well that unfair prices can be hugely detrimental for families and businesses alike and that delays and wasted time on websites makes shopping online an incredibly frustrating experience. For online retailers too, transparent and equitable delivery charges mean fewer abandoned shopping carts and repeat custom.

The fact that this statement has attracted the support of the business community, trading standards and government alike is testament to the hard work and determination of consumers and community campaigners like those in Skye and Lochalsh CAB who first started this campaign.

We hope that people across the country will now use this statement of principles to hold retailers to a higher standard and ensure that the postcode penalty suffered by so many can become a thing of the past.

Tom Ironside, Director of Business and Regulation, British Retail Consortium (BRC) said:

BRC members are fully committed to providing the best omni-channel experience for shoppers throughout the UK and beyond.

It is not always possible to provide consumers everywhere with every product, given the need to provide withdrawal rights and guarantee rights for up to 6 years, or the same delivery charge for certain heavy goods.

The statement of principles provides some ideas of how members can endeavour to provide the best possible service.

The industry guidance developed by Citizens Advice and the British Retail Consortium will help e-retailers to make sure that their customers can easily access clear and transparent delivery information, including information on any possible necessary geographic surcharges or delivery restrictions that could apply, and the reasons for such variations.

The principles will apply across the UK.

Notes for editors

  1. A copy of the guidance can be found at Parcel deliveries: best practice guide.
  2. Following on from a roundtable event hosted by Consumer Minister Jo Swinson last November 2013, Citizens Advice coordinated the development of the UK Statement of Principles working with the British Retail Consortium (BRC). These Principles are based on those developed by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
  3. The 2012 report ‘The Postcode Penalty’ revealed that at least 1 million Scots face surcharges, delayed parcels or are refused delivery altogether, with consumers in the Highlands charged an average of £15 extra for delivery, and those in Scotland’s island communities facing a 500% mark up on the standard delivery price to receive goods they order online.
  4. Consumer Futures’ research in 2013 showed that 62% abandoned their online purchase before completing it and 46% no longer shop with that retailer
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