Scottish People in Postcode Penalty Shootout

Residents in the UK are still being ripped off by unfair and, in my opinion, unjustifiable delivery charges depending on where they live. You could be confused into thinking we are talking about Middle Earth or Narnia here no but – we are talking about delivering to Scotland.

The so-called postcode penalty is affecting over a million Scottish Citizens across the country, facing them with higher charges, longer waits for deliveries and in some cases, being refused delivery all together. eBay, Amazon Marketplace and Tesco have all been singled out as the worst offenders.

In some areas, consumers can see as much as a 500% mark-up on delivery charges, compared to the average for the UK. This saw some rural areas paying £18.60 extra for normal standard deliveries on their online purchases.

But it’s not just cost that is the problem here. What can be even more frustrating for these Scots are the long delays on promised delivery dates. Some couriers do warn their customers that deliveries to the Highlands and Islands can take up to seven days longer than for the rest of the UK. We are all happy to pay that little bit extra to have our items delivered in time for that special day. But what about a 35 day delay at five times the cost? I very much doubt it.

Problematic postcodes

According to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) there are some postcode areas some retailers refuse to deliver to at all.

It’s important to remember it’s not always the retailers fault. Quite often the retailer is just as bemused as the shopper as to why it costs so much to deliver to these areas. Retailers are simply passing on the charges from the couriers.

Delivery and transport firms have tried to justify their stance with calculation being based on cost of fuel. It is also more expensive to make one delivery to a rural location that is miles away from the main distribution centre then multiple in a major cities. Which you might think is fair enough. However, it’s the very basic mistakes that these companies seem to be making in identifying locations and pricing them wrongly as a result that is the real travesty.

Rural rip-off

The research from CAS also found that in calculating surcharges some of the 534 online retailers studied within the research were wrongly classifying major towns and cities in Scotland – suggesting that Aberdeen is in the Highlands and that Inverness is offshore.

You may remember, earlier this year when Specsavers handed out a leaflet in the highlands boasting a visit from the popular eye-care chain to the “isles of Brora and Wick”, which are actually two coastal towns in the north Scotland. And it seems that other retailers across the board are making this fundamental mistake as well.

It’s hard to compare privately-owned delivery companies to Royal Mail but this clearly is unfair to large proportion of people. The issue once again highlights the importance of data quality and ensuring the data you’re using if fit for the task in hand. Retailers should be calculating delivery charges by the costs incurred by using geolocation services to calculate the cost from one point to another, rather than simply relying on postcodes. Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF®) has all the information you need and if an address doesn’t mention it being an island, then it is probably isn’t!

CAS now wants to convince retailers to change their ways and stop surcharging, and intend to put pressure on regulators to take action. What this action will consist of is yet to be seen. But this issue has caught the attention of Office of Fair Trading and will remain a campaign the Scottish public will continue to fight.

Let us know what you think – is the postcode penalty fair?

  • Jack Whittaker

    A case could be made for charging extra to deliver to Shetland or the Hebrides, but Dundee and Perth? Ridiculous!

  • Lousia Smith

    I’ve been refused delivery before because the company thought that Oban was an island and no amount of arguing convinced them that it’s on the mainland. I’ve learnt to be very loyal to the companies that treat us well and just avoid those that don’t!

  • Thomas Parsonage

    I am delighted that CAB have taken this matter seriously. It’s so ironic that those of us in rural areas, who are most in need of online shopping, are penalised or treated like second class citizens.

    • Guy M

      I agree, although the market is currently being driven by the laws of supply and demand.

      Whilst i don’t agree with the differences, we’ve all grown up on mail which is required to be delivered under a 2 day service obligation by Royal Mail.

      The answer to the problem, in the near term, is for the online retailers to use couriers that have depots located in rural locations, which are best served to cater for remote addresses.

  • Keith Mc

    You can’t expect to have the benefits of rural living without some drawbacks. Just as people living in the city can’t expect to avoid noise/light pollution. Excessive charges and delays should be challenged, but identical service is unrealistic.

  • Hi I am in Johnstone, Renfrewshire and a PA postcode. 3 miles from the biggest town in Scotland and 13 miles from the biggest city and some (un-enlightened) retailers want to charge me more!

    Are they keen to lose business? ‘Cause they certainly don’t get mine when they want to apply a postage penalty!