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Summit arranged to address ‘unfair and punitive’ delivery charges for north residents

UK minister Paul Scully has agreed to meet Douglas Ross over unfair delivery charges.
UK minister Paul Scully has agreed to meet Douglas Ross over unfair delivery charges.

A summit will be held between a Moray MP, delivery companies and a UK Government minister in a bid to address unfair delivery charges.

Douglas Ross has secured the meeting, which is also to be attended by some of the worst offenders in introducing high fees, following a debate in the House of Commons.

Residents across the north and north-east have long been left frustrated after being penalised with high delivery charges simply due to their location.

Research previously conducted by the Scottish Parliament found that the additional costs passed onto residents in delivery charges has topped £45 million.

The total includes £4.4m in Moray, more than £3m across the north-east and a staggering £9m in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch alone.

Hundreds of examples

Mr Ross led a debate within the House of Commons on Monday evening to highlight the concerns of his constituents.

He described the practice as “unfair and punitive” adding that it has rumbled on for too long.

During his address, the Moray MP highlighted The Press and Journal’s report on Inverness man Jim Oliver who was quoted an extortionate £200 million for delivery of a garden tool. 

The example – which is more than the world’s most expensive footballer Neymar – was met with laughter by the small pool gathered in the commons.

He added that there are “literally hundreds of examples” of where others have experienced major additional costs.

Hopes meeting will end unfair charges

Following the debate, UK Government minister for small business, consumers and labour Paul Scully agreed to hold a meeting with Mr Ross and firms responsible for imposing unfair charges.

Mr Ross hopes the meeting can be arranged “as soon as possible” and that every possible measure is explored to end the extortionate charges.

High delivery charges have long been highlighted by north residents as a source of frustration.

Tennents previously came under fire for charging £7.50 for delivery of novelty items such as socks and Christmas baubles to places in Moray and the Highlands, all while delivery of a crate of lager to England was quoted at the lower cost of £4.95.

Calls for permanent solution

Not all have reacted to the meeting with the UK Government in a positive manner.

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said it was a “profoundly disappointing but unsurprising” response from the UK Government.

His comments come as Mr Scully insists his priority is “the continued enforcement of the law to ensure that customers are not surprised by delivery charges and are able to make choices based on clear information”.

Richard Lochhead.

Mr Lochhead has said it is “high time this practice was put to an end once and for all”.

He has called for a permanent solution to ensure customers and businesses in rural Scotland are treated equally.

‘This is doing little to address the situation’

He said: “Once again the Conservative UK Government has failed to commit to finally stepping in and ending the unfair practices people in Moray are experiencing day in, day out.

“It is extremely frustrating that the response from the Tory minister continues to imply that competition in the market is the best way to ensure customers benefit.

“It is clear this is doing little to address the situation, with costs for deliveries to rural areas continuing to rise year on year.

“Some businesses and courier companies are happy to force customers in these areas to either pay these excessive fees or go without.”

Talk to retailers directly

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Consumer protection laws require retailers to be upfront about their charges and the Royal Mail provides a universal parcel service at a standard price throughout the United Kingdom thanks to legislation the UK government put in place in 2011.

“The Consumer Protection Partnership continues to look at delivery issues faced by those in certain regions.

“Ultimately, it is for retailers to decide on how to provide their delivery service to customers, and those facing issues should speak to retailers directly.”

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