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Delivery firms told to improve poor complaints process

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Delivery firms face enforcement action by the communications regulator if they fail to improve the way they handle customer complaints.

Parcel customers should be told who to contact, and what channels they can use to make a complaint under measures announced by the communications regulator, Ofcom.

As part of its updated guidance to delivery firms which will come into effect from April 2023, it said customers should be told what the complaint process will be, and how long it will take to resolve.

Further, complaints should be dealt with by staff who have received appropriate training.

Ofcom warned that if it does not see “substantial improvements in customer service and complaints handling”, it will consider enforcement action or further regulation.

It comes as people are increasingly relying on parcel deliveries and while customer service satisfaction levels have remained high due to increased competition, Ofcom said it “identified a series of problems with the way that complaints are currently handled across the industry”.

Its research revealed almost two thirds (64%) of customers experienced a problem with their delivery over a three-month period last year.

And for a quarter of senders, they found it difficult to make a complaint, or to contact parcel operators when their delivery didn’t go to plan.

Two in five said their complaints were only partially resolved, while one in 10 said their complaint remained unresolved.

Fair treatment of disabled customers

Ofcom will also bring in new rules to ensure disabled people are treated fairly by postal companies.

Parcel firms will be required to establish, publish and comply with “clear and effective policies and procedures” as disabled people are more likely to experience parcel delivery problems than non-disabled customers.

These include couriers not allowing enough time at the door, parcels being left in inaccessible places, and operators not acting on specific delivery instructions provided to them.

Under the new rules set to take effect from November 2023, postal operators must have policies and procedures in place to ensure disabled customers can communicate their delivery needs to them, and firms will need to ensure couriers will meet those needs when delivering parcels.

Further, Ofcom has also set out how it will regulate Royal Mail over the next five years. As the universal service provider, it is subject to more regulation than other postal operators.

Ofcom said it will continue to set strict annual delivery targets and to impose a cap on second-class stamp prices, just weeks after it launched an investigation of Royal Mail over its failure to meet delivery targets for first class and second class post.

‘Disappointing deliveries will remain the norm’

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director, said: “Deliveries are part and parcel of our daily lives. But the customer service that some people have been getting when a delivery goes wrong simply hasn’t been good enough. So we’re strengthening our regulations to make sure people are treated fairly by delivery firms.

“If we’re not satisfied with how parcel companies respond, they could face enforcement action or tighter rules in future.”

Matthew Upton, director of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “Shoppers have been faced with abysmal service in parcel deliveries for too long.

“For the second year running, we found more than two thirds of people had problems getting their parcel during the winter months – the busiest time of the year.

“We’re glad Ofcom is looking at how people can complain about deliveries and at how to make parcel deliveries easier for disabled people. But until the regulator starts monitoring firms’ performances and fining those which fall short, disappointing deliveries will remain the norm.”

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