Highlands & Islands

Northern Scotland faces 'postcode penalty' for parcel delivery

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Consumers in northern Scotland and the islands are paying a "postcode penalty" in delivery charges for online purchases, research has found.

A study for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found those living in the north and north-east pay at least 30% more than consumers elsewhere.

The figure rises to 50% more on average in the Scottish islands.

CAS has called on delivery firms to consider collaborating with each other and the public sector to reduce costs.

A report - The Postcode Penalty Delivering Solutions - found that higher charges were not confined to rural areas but affected all addresses north of the central belt including urban areas such as Inverness and Aberdeen.

The research looked at delivery options for a range of online purchases to 12 addresses representing various areas of the UK - including urban and rural, mainland and island.

The discrepancy was most marked for heavier items. When compared with average costs for urban consumer in the rest of the UK the research found that:

  • For smaller parcels, average delivery charges were 13% higher in the Highlands and Islands.
  • For larger parcels (1-20kg) the delivery cost was 23% higher
  • In the 20-30kg category the costs more than doubled
  • Above 30kg, prices were typically four times higher

Nina Ballantyne, spokeswoman for the CAS Consumer Futures Unit said: "This new data is stark and shows that people in the northern half of Scotland are hit by delivery surcharges which can be difficult to justify.

"This is not just a problem for remote and rural areas. The areas affected include Perthshire, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, as well as the Highlands and Islands.

"In addition, many online retailers are not transparent about the charges. So, consumers are unable to make informed choices. We believe that any delivery charges should be up front and justifiable, and would like to see consistent pricing policies across the UK."

'Set standards'

The report accepts that it costs delivery firms more to deliver items in some areas, but says a collaborative approach may help reduce extra overheads.

It backs previous suggestions public bodies play a role, for example, by helping to establish a pick-up drop-off (Pudo) network.

The report was published ahead of a debate on the issue at Holyrood led by SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, who has been campaigning for fair delivery charges.

Mr Lochhead said: "There should be set standards retailers should be forced to adopt for deliveries across the country.

"We also need transparency and online retailers shouldn't get away with hiding the delivery surcharge until the very last moment when the consumer is paying for their products. Some even call customers the day after their purchase and ask for a delivery surcharge."

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