Scotland business

Surge in anger over rural delivery charges

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Media captionCAS wants more retailers to offer delivery via Royal Mail

Hundreds more people have contacted Citizens Advice Scotland over the past few hours to complain about unfair rural delivery charges.

Earlier the charity published the results of a survey of 900 consumers.

It found Scots living in rural and remote areas were being charged "rip-off" prices for delivery when they bought goods online.

Since re-opening the survey CAS has received more than 500 new responses from angry members of the public.

The initial CAS survey, carried out in November, also found rural Scots were often refused delivery because their location was classed as "remote".

It claimed many consumers were angry at what they saw as discriminatory and unfair policies by online retailers.

Sarah Beattie-Smith from CAS said: "This response today is really astonishing, and reveals an extraordinary level of anger about this issue.

"We had thought the 900 responses we received in November was a massive response. To get over half that again in just a few hours is amazing.

"We obviously haven't evaluated the new data yet, but the scale of the response shows that this is a campaign that has really caught the imagination of people in rural Scotland, and that the problem is a lot more widespread than people perhaps realised."

CAS said sellers should ensure charges were based on actual costs incurred.

In the survey more than 300 different retailers were pinpointed as either charging high delivery prices or refusing to deliver to consumers at all.

Some respondents claimed private sellers on sites such as Amazon and eBay often charged much more than it would cost to send an item by Royal Mail.

However, CAS said the majority of the companies named were smaller companies who might be unaware of their obligations under distance-selling regulations.

The survey also suggested consumers were frustrated at companies and couriers who appeared to charge extra based on a postcode area rather than the actual cost of delivery.

As well as high charges, 84% of consumers said they had been refused delivery because of their "remote" location.

Consumers in Orkney fared the worst, with 93% saying they had been refused delivery. They were followed by online shoppers in the Western Isles (91%) and Highland residents (79%).

Ms Beattie-Smith added: "We want to be very clear about our objectives in this campaign. The practices we have uncovered are simply unfair and need to be addressed.

"Rural consumers don't want any special treatment - they just want a fair deal. We aim to secure real change in the way online companies treat rural customers."

CAS called on retailers to comply with distance-selling regulations by clearly displaying delivery costs on their website before the point of sale.

It also said it was keen to see the Royal Mail's Universal Service Obligation maintained in order to protect rural and remote consumers from high costs for delivery.

CAS said it would report its evidence to the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards officials, as well as to both the UK and Scottish governments.

It will also be writing to companies named by respondents, to ask them to change their policies.

'Timely' report

Orkney Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur described the report as "timely".

He said: "The findings highlight the real disadvantage many people in remote and rural areas face from unfair delivery practices.

"The fact that so many of those who responded to the survey live in Orkney comes as no surprise at all. I know from my own mailbag and surgeries, how much of an issue this is for those living in the islands."

He added: "In this already tough financial climate, we need to make sure those in remote and rural areas are not penalised because of where they live.

"For that reason, I will be commending this report and its recommendations to the parliament."

CAS urged more people to use the delivery survey to report their experiences on the issue.

It will close at midnight on 19 January.

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