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Royal Mail delays hit 15.7 million people in past month alone

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Delays in receiving letters mean million of people have suffered negative consequences such as missing health appointments, fines and bills.

Citizens Advice is calling on regulator Ofcom for a full ‘root and branch’ review of post delays.

The charity’s figures show that almost one in three people were hit by post delays in the past month. Almost half (7.3 million) of those affected experienced knock-on effects such as missing medical appointments, or paying bills or fines late.

This is up from the estimated 6.2 million people that the charity’s previous research found were seriously impacted after missing important mail over Christmas.

The charity says the increasing numbers negatively impacted by delivery delays comes despite peak delivery periods of Black Friday and Christmas having passed and no strikes since the end of 2022.

Missed hospital letters and court dates

One mother told Citizens Advice that more than four hospital appointment letters didn’t arrive on time during her pregnancy which was considered high risk. She missed one appointment as a result, and claims she lost a baby as a result of the stress.

Sian Hiller, chief officer at Citizens Advice Edenbridge and Westerham, said: “We hear first-hand the detrimental impact letter delays can have on people. Just the other day I spoke to a client who had missed the deadline to respond to a family court hearing because the letter arrived after the deadline date – it was upsetting to hear the distress and anxiety it had caused them.

“This situation is not uncommon, we often hear of the effect letter delays can have on people as we work with them to try to rectify the situation.”

Royal Mail accused of prioritising parcels

MPs recently highlighted evidence that Royal Mail had prioritised parcels over letters and called on Ofcom to investigate this issue across a number of years.

The charity’s latest findings show 31% of us experienced letter delays in the past month, compared to 22% experiencing parcel delays.

Citizens Advice says its latest findings, coupled with MPs’ concerns, show it’s no longer enough for Ofcom to take a business-as-usual approach in its current investigation into delays. It’s calling on the regulator to launch a multi-year review into mail delays and deprioritisation.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Royal Mail’s delays are still at appalling levels and it’s consumers who are being saddled with the consequences.

“We’re seeing millions of people missing important post. But given Royal Mail’s virtual monopoly of letters, people have nowhere else to go for their mail.

“Delayed post been an issue for years and the problem is only getting worse. Ofcom must now do a full root-and-branch investigation into mail delays.”

In January, Citizens Advice claimed that an estimated 31 million people (60% of UK adults) were hit with letter delays during Christmas 2022. The charity said it was the third festive period in a row where Brits have faced problems with mail delivery.

Stamp prices

Earlier this week Ofcom announced proposals to ensure that the price to send letters second class will be pegged to inflation until at least 2029, so postal services remain affordable.

As the universal postal service provider, Royal Mail is required to deliver letters six days a week and parcels five days a week to every address in the UK, at an affordable and uniform price.

To make sure the universal service remains affordable, Ofcom periodically reviews whether stamp prices should be capped. The regulator set its last cap in 2019 for five years, and is now reviewing prices for the period April 2024 to March 2029.

Brits have just one month left to use non-barcoded stamps or swap them for barcoded ones instead. Mail sent after 31 July using non-barcoded ‘definitive stamps’ will be invalid and subject to a surcharge.