On the busiest internet trading day of the year yesterday – Cyber Monday – the Scottish Government launched its action plan to combat unfair delivery charges to the Highlands and Islands.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn came to the Town House in Inverness to announce Fair Deliveries For All, an eight point plan to combat the excessive delivery charges which make two thirds of north residents abandon their purchases at checkout.
In the plan, the Scottish government pledges to improve transparency and drive behaviour change, develop a Scottish Parcel Delivery Map to target interventions, make it easier for consumers to know and exercise their rights, and improve the accuracy of postcode classification tools and shape UK Government action.
It also pledges to establish the Improving Consumer Outcomes Fund to tackle the ‘misleading and unfair delivery charges in rural and remote areas of Scotland’.
Mr Hepburn said: “Online retail is now a well-established phenomenon, on that basis it’s very appropriate for us to ensure that people are not disadvantaged by delivery charges in terms of where they live.”
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An interactive portal will be be launched next year, where consumers and businesses can record their experience of unfair delivery charges.
Mr Hepburn said: “This is to allow us to understand what is happening, where it’s happening, and which communities are most impacted by it to inform our policy approach.”
Alan Prior of Skye and Lochalsh CAB welcomed the plan.
He said: “The cost of living on an island can be higher anyway, higher fuel costs, higher delivery costs all add up and everyone’s affected by it.
“We can post off the island and it doesn’t cost any extra, so why does it cost extra to get delivered here?”
Mr Prior said a flat delivery rate for all would help, with city dwellers contributing a small amount to help subsidise rural areas.
Small business owner Karen Davidson of F T Davidson Electricians said her company did its best to help disadvantaged customers facing massive delivery charges.
She said: “If a small obsolete part goes inside a heater, we can source the part online for say £10, but are told it’s £20 to deliver. That’s too much for an elderly person who can’t afford to buy a new heater, or pay for the delivery charges. We help out when we can, at a loss to ourselves.
“The company could post the part out cheaply, but apparently they’re tied to the contract they have with their courier.”
David Mackenzie, of Highland Council trading standards, said: “We need a national approach to this and this is what we’re finally getting, a concerted effort across the country to deal with this at source.
“Our big contribution to that is the deliverylaw.uk website which is the one-stop shop on this topic.”