MPs condemn 'chronically poor' postal serviceMillions of letters and parcels lost or damaged

12 December 2006

Posting a letter

MPs have slammed the Royal Mail for being ‘chronically poor’ in parts of the country and have complained that the interests of customers are not an absolute priority.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said some postcode areas, particularly in London, experienced consistently worse levels of service than others.

It wants the industry's regulator Postcomm to conduct research into different levels of service and to force Royal Mail to sort out the problems.

The MPs also criticised schemes to compensate customers for lost, stolen or damaged post, claiming they did not offer adequate protection for consumers.

Lost mail

Committee Chairman Edward Leigh said: ‘You would expect that a new regime for the quality of postal services would aim to improve collection and delivery times and reduce the number of pieces of mail lost by Royal Mail. If so, you would be mistaken.

‘Neither of these aspects of performance is targeted under the current regime introduced in April of this year.

‘Given that people are now receiving their mail later in the day and that over 15 million letters and parcels are being lost, stolen or damaged in a year, it is pretty clear that the interests of ordinary users of the post are not an absolute priority.’

Mr Leigh agreed that Royal Mail had improved its performance since 2002 but said there were still areas in the country - urban areas, particularly in London - where the postal service is chronically poor.

Serious breaches

In February Postcomm said Royal Mail was guilty of serious breaches over protecting the mail and delivering it on time.

Its investigation highlighted particular problems with the recruitment and vetting of temporary Royal Mail staff and the company's mail security measures.

Two months earlier a Which? survey had revealed that 34 per cent of people saw their post go missing or get damaged in the previous 12 months.

At the time the Royal Mail told us that 202 postal staff were convicted of theft in the past year although it wouldn't say how many items of post are stolen, claiming the information was commercially sensitive.

Record performance

Reacting to this latest criticism, a Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘It is absolute nonsense to suggest anything other than Royal Mail's quality of service is at record levels.

‘Its performance is among the very best in Europe and its prices are among the very lowest.’

The spokesman added that more than nine out of 10 first class letter were delivered on time, while parts of London had some of the best performances in the country.