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Rural delivery fees: Ministers urged to bring an end to rip-off charges

rural delivery fees

Online retailers have been accused of “ripping off” shoppers and businesses in the north of Scotland, after it emerged firms have charged more than £100 million in rural delivery fees over the last three years.

Research from Citizens Advice Scotland has found that those living in Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, the Highlands and the Islands pay at least 30% more on average for a delivery to the rest of mainland Britain.

In all, north of Scotland consumers forked out almost £40 million this year in delivery charges – cash Moray MP Douglas Ross says could be better used to invest in the Covid recovery.

The Scottish Tory leader, speaking in the Commons, said “enough is enough” and called on ministers to take tougher action, unless online firms started to voluntarily drop the charges.

Douglas Ross.

He said: “In the past three years, more than £100 million in additional charges has been paid by shoppers in the north of Scotland, that’s a huge sum of money.

“At a time when our economy is struggling, people are losing their jobs and seeing their working hours cut, that could be money going back into businesses.”

In a bid to tackle this issue, in 2018 the Advertising Standards Authority made clear that it would act to ensure a “level playing field across the United Kingdom”, meaning companies could not apply surcharges for delivery if the consumer had not been alerted to potential extra cost.

Mr Ross told MPs that, two years on, the practice is still happening.

“I had a constituent from Fochabers who had made a purchase with a company that stated ‘free UK delivery’.

“When he put in his postcode, he was hit with a £75 delivery charge.”

He added: “Let’s not allow this discriminatory practice to continue, let’s stand up for all those people who are being ripped off in Moray and across parts of Scotland on a daily basis.

“Let’s say enough is enough, let’s ask the industry, the retailers, and the couriers to get their house in order.

“If they won’t do that, this government should take steps to address the inherent unfairness.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead added: “Scottish consumers in rural areas – who are often more dependent on online shopping than those who live on the mainland – should not have to live with these eye-watering surcharges.

“Having to pay extra delivery charges can really hit families in the pocket, especially when buying Christmas presents for friends and family.

“These unfair postcode penalties must be tackled once and for all – we need the UK Government to step up and legislate to ensure that this is the last Christmas Scots are forced to put up with these rip-off surcharges.”

Minister vows to ‘push the conversation’

Business minister Paul Scully said it is “crucial” firms are up front on charges and said his department had worked to ensure “everyone including retailers have access to an affordable postal service for deliveries across the UK”.

Mr Scully added: “I am more than happy to continue working with (Mr Ross) so that we can help convene, shape and push the conversation. We can make sure that consumers’ voices are heard.”

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