On 16 October 2012, Ofcom published interim results on its assessment as to whether the postal service is meeting consumers’ needs. Ofcom is obliged under the Postal Services Act 2011 to carry out this assessment and complete its review by 31 March 2013.
Ofcom states that the research and analysis which has been undertaken so far should be seen in the context of a reduction in reliance on the postal service generally, except in relation to packets. The volume of mail has fallen by 25% between 2005 and 2011 from 22.3bn items to 16.6bn items. With the increase in electronic methods of communication such as email, online document sharing and video calling all having an impact. However, whilst the volume of letters sent has decreased in recent years, there has been an increase in the trend towards ordering goods online to be delivered by post.
The Regulator states that nine out of ten residential and business users said they find the current service ‘acceptable.’ Although there is a caveat to that in that ‘acceptability’ is used alongside the term ‘tolerability’ and is different from satisfaction. Satisfaction asks users how happy they are with a service, whilst tolerability asks at what point they would be unhappy with a service.
Whilst the current system is generally acceptable to most users, Ofcom’s research highlights some exceptions. For example, users want more convenient packet services and re-delivery options with some suggestions for changes to delivery office opening hours. Most users also preferred the idea of a single tier postal service over the current two-tier, First and Second Class services.
It is also noted that the growing trend in buying or selling goods online means higher value items in the postal network, which when problems occur such as loss, damage or delay have a significant impact on consumers and businesses.
One of the ways the Regulator has sought to address customer dissatisfaction is through The Postal Redress Service (POSTRS).
POSTRS is an independent scheme designed to resolve disputes between regulated postal operators and their customers and is administered by IDRS Ltd part of CEDR.
All regulated postal operators are required by law to be a member of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme approved by Ofcom. Launched on 1st October 2008, POSTRS is currently the only approved scheme.
POSTRS provides a cheap and quick means of redress to customers when things go wrong.