Royal Mail denies cutting first class deliveries

First class stamps
Image caption A first class stamp currently costs 46 pence, 10p more than a second class stamp

Royal Mail has strongly denied reports it has stopped giving first class mail priority over second class deliveries on Saturdays.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper, citing confidential Royal Mail documents, claimed the company had stopped differentiating between the two classes of mail in July.

The paper said the documents showed the firm saw this as a way to save money.

But a Royal Mail spokesman said the story was "completely wrong".

"First class mail always has the priority over second class mail at all times," he said.

"There has been no change at all in the service specification for first and second class mail. While we are committed to excellent service for all our mail, first class mail is our priority; we do everything possible to deliver it the next working day."

The Mail on Sunday claimed that millions of customers had needlessly paid the extra 10 pence cost of first class stamp.

Royal Mail, it said, had made about £4m from downgrading first class mail.

The paper said it had seen an internal document outlining the new policy: "Second class traffic posted Friday and Saturday will be processed along with first-class posted Saturday, using Saturday first class labels.

"We want to move to a standardised way of dispatching our second class Saturday-posted traffic and to also simplify and reduce cost in our network by removing under-utilised services."

Big losses

Earlier this month, regulator Ofcom announced plans to allow Royal Mail be given the power to change the price of all first class and some second class postage.

It said the changes were needed because of "huge changes" in the industry.

Royal Mail made a £120m loss from its letters business last year, as it struggles to cope with the rise of electronic messaging such as email, and from increased competition from other service providers.

The company is being prepared for privatisation - the government plans to sell up to 90% of the business, with the rest being offered to employees.

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