Royal Mail: postal service accused of ‘letting people down’ as 31 million hit by delays over Christmas

Some missed health appointments and important legal documents as a result of postal delays over the festive period.
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Royal Mail has been accused of “letting people down” after more than half of UK adults were hit by letter delays over Christmas.

Six in ten, or an estimated 31 million people, suffered delayed post - with millions missing important legal documents (3.2 million) and vital health appointments (2.1 million). Others said they were still receiving Christmas cards well into the new year.

Citizens Advice, who conducted the survey, said it was the third year running that this had happened - and accused Royal Mail of “letting consumers down”.

The charity has called on regulator Ofcom to investigate the service’s performance in recent years - saying it should “think again about not holding the firm to account over its performance during the festive period.” Royal Mail has an obligation as Universal Service Provider to deliver mail on time, but it is currently exempt from its targets over Christmas.

Royal Mail has been accused of “letting people down” after more than half of UK adults were hit by letter delays over Christmas. Credit: Kim Mogg / NationalWorldRoyal Mail has been accused of “letting people down” after more than half of UK adults were hit by letter delays over Christmas. Credit: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld
Royal Mail has been accused of “letting people down” after more than half of UK adults were hit by letter delays over Christmas. Credit: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld

Royal Mail should also scrap any further stamp price rises “at a time when performance is so poor”, Citizens Advice added.

The survey also found that nearly a quarter of people (23%) were turning to more expensive ways of sending mail, such as Special Delivery Guaranteed, in an attempt to ensure letters arrived on time. But even then, 39% of customers faced delays - despite paying extra money.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “For a third year running, Royal Mail has let consumers down. Letter delays have real and worrying consequences, especially when people miss medical appointments or get bills late.

“Royal Mail’s virtual monopoly on letters means that Ofcom needs to take action to protect consumers from further harm. It must investigate Royal Mail’s culture of poor performance and stop letting the company off the hook over the festive season.”

Royal Mail said that more than 110 million parcels and 600 million addressed letters were delivered in December. Meanwhile, the company’s owners, International Distributions Services, said that strikes had cost the company £200 million - revealing that its losses in the first nine months of the financial year had been £295 million. A decrease in letter volumes and people ordering Covid-19 testing kits also contributed to this.

The group has resumed talks with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which has been striking over pay and conditions, but the union recently confirmed to NationalWorld that it is balloting its members on further action at the moment. The results are due to be released on 16 February.

A spokesperson for CWU told NationalWorld: “Our members wanted to be out on their rounds making Christmas happen for the communities they serve, but Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson repeatedly refused to meet workers’ representatives to call a Christmas truce. Postal workers want services to go back to normal, but they are determined that this won’t come at the cost of their entire livelihoods.”

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