Shoppers across the north are still being hammered by rising delivery charges despite efforts to force retailers to reduce fees attached to items being transported north.
Research undertaken by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has shown that the total annual cost of surcharges rocketed by nearly £1million in Inverness and Nairn, and by hundreds of thousands of pounds elsewhere between 2017 and 2018.
The findings, revealed yesterday, follow the Fair Delivery Charges campaign which has experienced some success in persuading firms to reduce the levies applied to goods posted to north homes and attracted support across the political spectrum.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead launched the crusade after being contacted by scores of outraged constituents and commissioned the recent research.
He labelled the result of the study “hugely frustrating” given the work that has gone into eradicating the problem.
Mr Lochhead said: “Consumers in rural areas quite often rely on online shopping and they should not have to put up with the eye-watering surcharges that are so often imposed by retailers without rhyme or reason.
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“Shoppers in Scotland were forced to fork out over £38m last year – up from £36m the year before – on parcel delivery surcharges simply because of where they live, and these latest figures show just what that means for people living in my constituency and across the north.”
Charges went up from £13.98m to £14.68m in Inverness and Nairn, from £3.77m to £3.95m in Argyll and Bute and from £3.86m to £4.05m in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Mr Lochhead held talks with UK Government Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Kelly Tolhurst, at the end of November.
The SNP politician deemed the meeting constructive but said the new research showed that “urgent” action needed to be taken.
He added: “Thanks to the campaign, the authorities have begun to take action but with the cost of these surcharges continuing to rise as more and more people shop online, we really need to see a more urgent approach to addressing this issue.
“It is time for the UK Government to consider what more can be done, given it is responsible for regulation, otherwise the parcel delivery surcharge bill in Moray and across Scotland is just going to get higher and higher.”