Problem postal serviceSecond-class post causing problems

02 December 2005

If you forget to send cards this Christmas, you've good reason to claim they were lost in the post.

An astonishing one in four people told us they've suffered both lost and damaged post in the past 12 months. A further 34 per cent saw their post either go missing or get damaged.

The findings, from our survey of 1,000 adults in September, suggest people's experience of the service could be worse than Royal Mail figures indicate. It says 99.9 per cent of mail arrives safely.

But the news won't surprise readers like Chris Hicks from Ceredigion, who lost confidence in Royal Mail after three parcels, containing a computer and valuable books, went missing in two months.

To test the reliability of Chris' service, we sent him a box of individually wrapped books by Royal Mail special delivery. The box arrived, but it seemed to us and to Chris that someone had opened it, ripped open the wrapping around the books and repacked it.

Royal Mail 'must be blind'

We put this to Royal Mail and it visited Chris to inspect the parcel. It said that because the damage was on the bottom of the box, it probably went unnoticed by the delivery person. It then suggested that the damage was our fault, as the box was 'insufficiently packaged for its weight and content'.

We contacted the postal watchdog, Postwatch. On seeing the pictures of our box, chief Peter Carr said: 'It looks like someone's had a go at that. Royal Mail must be blind.'

Last year 202 postal staff were convicted of theft - 78 cases are outstanding. But Royal Mail told us that the numbers are low in the context of 200,000 staff. It won't say how many items of post are stolen, claiming the information is commercially sensitive.

Postwatch, which does have access to the figures, says the numbers are the tip of the iceberg because Royal Mail doesn't recognise postal tampering. This involves thieves opening parcels carefully and stealing the contents but leaving the packaging apparently intact. Postwatch has seen a 50 per cent rise in these cases over the last two years.

Royal Mail will consider compensation claims but it says that when the addressee signs for goods they are saying items were delivered intact.