Last year Royal Mail had a very extreme shake up of their services. The headlines focused on the increase in price of First and Second Class letters, however in all honesty those increases were not unreasonable.
What was totally overlooked by the media was the removal of all weight bands below 750g for small parcels. Great if you are a businesses selling relatively heavy items, but a severe financial hit for businesses selling light products that are too large to be classified as Large Letter. An increase (First Class) from £1.58 to £2.70 for the (previous) lightest band.
Royal Mail “justified” the increase by claiming that this would simplify things for customers and was more in line with the extra effort involved in delivering said items. Sceptics might have inferred that they were actually focusing on a section of their business that has no direct competitor and therefore no possibility of losing business over the increases.
With the 2012 price increases came a cap from Ofcom as to how much RM are allowed to increase prices over the following 7 years.
For second class letters that was capped at 53%.
In the summer Ofcom extended this cap to cover Large Letter and Small packet services “to protect small businesses and vulnerable consumers.”
Imagine the surprise when on December 6th 2012 Royal Mail issued a new proposal for their Parcel services (and plans for reduced compensation coverage) for 2013.
In the space of 7 months (April – end Nov) Royal Mail have apparently collected enough data to show that their newly introduced weight/price bands are not as efficient as expected and are therefore going to scrap the Small Packet service entirely and replace it with Small and Medium parcels. The proposed weights and size limits can be found in the linked file.
Note that anything over the “medium” size will no longer be able to use Royal Mail and will need to find a new carrier. Unfortunately for me and all businesses like me, that includes guitar necks.
Guitar necks will no longer be accepted by Royal Mail unless they are in cylindrical/tube shaped packaging. As all my guitar necks come in rectangular boxes, this will require repackaging. This repackaging will not be cheap (I have already made enquiries and have yet to find a supplier at a price I am comfortable with) and will be extremely inconvenient. After all, tubes cannot be flat packed and will take up a considerable space even when stacked/stored.
What is the logic of a 61cm x 44cm x 44cm parcel being acceptable (volume of 118096cm) but a 74cm x 11cm x10cm is not (volume of 8140cm)? The tube maximum weight is 20kg – what do Royal Mail expect is going to be shipped in 90cm tubes that weighs 20kg?
Royal Mail have given no indication of the new prices that they will be charging for this new service, but as it is obvious they are scrapping Small Packets to get round the price cap, smart money is not on it being in the consumer’s favour.
Either way, I am going to have to increase prices to cover this increase in costs, be it repackaging, increased postal costs or both. Last year I absorbed the price increases, but I cannot do that for ever.
It would appear that Royal Mail do not need Ofcom’s approval for this change to their services. As of this date, the proposal does not exist on Ofcom’s website. There appears to be no formal method of objecting to this obvious circumvention of the price cap. Royal Mail ask for responses from stakeholders – I have been unable to find out what or who a stakeholder actually is so I am not able to contact one to speak on my behalf.
So I have written to my MP and Ofcom with my concerns. I have also mentioned the rather convenient timing of this announcement (December – the month that Royal Mail is closed for the most time in the entire year) and my specific objection to the size restriction, which I have also sent to Royal Mail.
I am under no illusions as to what impact my correspondence will have, however I wanted my objections on the record. The more people who object the more chance of actually being heard.