“With Mother’s Day around the corner, yesterday’s publication of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s report into recent postal service performance is a timely reminder of how much we Brits rely on sending cards to retain the emotional connections so important to our lives.’’ So said David Falkner, National Council Member of the Greeting Card Association (GCA).
David continued: “Our research shows that two key reasons we love receiving cards are that they help us feel a connection with someone special and they help us know someone was thinking of us. For those of us who can’t see Mum this weekend, knowing she’ll get this little lift can make all the difference. I believe many of us would wholeheartedly support the Committee’s conclusion that the postal service is such a key part of the fabric of local communities”.
It is against this backdrop that the GCA was saddened to learn of the Committee’s conclusion (reported yesterday) that Royal Mail has deprioritised delivery of letters as a matter of company policy before, between and during the pandemic and periods of industrial action, and welcomes the steps Ofcom will now be taking to establish if any such decisions taken by Royal Mail, meant that it breached its obligations to the British public.
“Ofcom’s investigation matters to everyone who doesn’t get to see family and friends as much as they’d ideally like,” said David. “While I believe we’d all recognise that the postal landscape is changing, it’s recently felt like much of that conversation was being undertaken by lobbying groups operating behind closed doors. This investigation offers the chance for us to have that debate as a nation, highlighting what options we want to hold on to to retain our connections with loved ones”.
The GCA says that it welcomes the Committee’s invitation to Royal Mail to consider the specific commercial opportunities available stemming from its ability to access ‘every household across the country on six days of the week’, noting the stark contrast between this invitation and the recent lobbying it has been reported was undertaken by Royal Mail to reduce their obligations to the British public.
David Byk, who also sits on the GCA National Council, commented: “You pay good money to have your card delivered to a loved one you may not be able to see on the day. For the British public, it must be particularly galling to note those prices are set to rise again for a service it has now been found Royal Mail aren’t delivering. Are Royal Mail prioritising parcels over mothers?”
In light of yesterday’s findings, the GCA said that it also welcomes the Committee’s call to the Royal Mail board to reflect on its decision to exclude the delivery of the USO (Universal Service) from the long-term pay and incentive structure for its senior managers, a recommendation that the GCA believes is vital to the public interest.
The GCA said that it is also look forward to reviewing the findings of Ofcom’s enforcement investigation into Royal Mail’s delivery of the USO (due by the end of 2023) and contributing to the subsequent government report into the Future of the Universal Service Obligation and Royal Mail due no later than the end of 2024. The GCA is encouraging all members of the public who feel strongly to do the same.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail is proud to deliver the Universal Service, and our policies are clear that parcels and letters should be treated with equal importance. We have informed the Committee that we will be reviewing the consistent application of our policies regarding the delivery of letters and parcels across the business. We will share our findings with the Committee and Ofcom. We have asked the Committee to share the material they have received, and reiterate again our request for them to do that at the earliest opportunity so it can help inform that review.
“Royal Mail answered in detail the questions asked by the Committee – in person and in correspondence – about the company’s performance, finances, and service delivery. We reject the suggestion that Royal Mail may have misled the BEIS Select Committee in that process.
“We welcome the Committee’s acknowledgement that the commercial reality of providing the Universal Service has changed, and their recommendation that the Government formally engage with Royal Mail to secure the future of the Universal Service. The challenges facing Royal Mail and the Universal Service cannot be ignored. Royal Mail is losing a million pounds a day, and customer behaviours have fundamentally changed. Letter volumes have decreased from more than 20 billion letters a year in 2004/5, to approximately eight billion letters per year now, posing real risks to the financial sustainability of the Universal Service. We urge the Government, Ofcom and all stakeholders to work with us to ensure we have a financially sustainable Universal Service for many years to come.
“We also welcome the Committee’s call for a quick resolution to the industrial dispute with the CWU, and continue to make this a priority.”