Rural customers penalised by delivery charges, claims Citizens Advice Scotland

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Residents in remote locations are being overcharged and let down by couriers, according to a new report published by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

CAS has highlighted the issues many in rural locations in the UK and across the world suffer on a daily basis. The report shows how consumers in some areas are facing high charges, longer waits for deliveries and in some cases, being refused delivery all together.

In remote locations online shoppers can see as much as a 500% mark-up on delivery charges compared to the other parts of the country. This saw some rural areas paying an extra £18.60 for normal standard deliveries on their online purchases. Such is the scale of the problem in Scotland in particular CAS contends over one million Scots are being ‘routinely ripped off’.

Guy Mucklow, managing director at the online address auto-fill software supplier, Postcode Anywhere, said: “This report doesn’t surprise me in the least. The cost differential is significant compared to city based deliveries. But what can be even more frustrating for consumers are the long delays on promised delivery dates, which can be as much as 35 days after the goods have been ordered.”

So often in these cases consumers want to vent their anger at the retailer, but as Mucklow points out, this isn’t always the right approach. “Quite often the retailer is just as bemused as the shopper as to why it costs so much to deliver to these areas, whereas in fact they are simply passing on the charges from the couriers.

“Delivery and transport firms try to justify this cost hike reasoning the calculation is based on the cost of fuel – it is more expensive to make one delivery to a rural location than to multiple in a major conurbation, which is perhaps fair enough. However, it’s often the basic mistake these companies seem to be making in identifying locations and pricing them wrongly as a result that causes particular annoyance ” Mucklow said.

The report from CAS found that in calculating surcharges some of the 534 online retailers studied within their research were wrongly classifying major towns and cities in Scotland, for example suggesting Aberdeen is in the Highlands and that Inverness is in fact offshore.

Basic mistakes in classification and the resulting increased surcharges is something that can so easily be solved, meaning the customer gets more value for money and retailers and couriers get better customer satisfaction, said Mucklow.

“The issue once again highlights the importance of data quality and ensuring the data you’re using is fit for the task in hand. Retailers and couriers should be using geolocation services to calculate delivery charges and informing the customer of the cost before they’ve got to the check-out page. 

“CAS is now putting retailers and regulators under pressure to stop this surcharging, the consequences of which have yet to be seen, as this problem certainly is not isolated to Scotland but throughout the UK and potentially the world. However, getting the basics right is a very good starting point that will save a great deal of pain and cost for everyone involved.”