Should you surcharge deliveries to rural Scotland?

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Citizens Advice Scotland were on Radio 4 You and Yours today, talking about unreasonable surcharges to the far flung corners of Scotland. eBay, Amazon Marketplace and Tesco were singled out as the worst offenders.

However it’s fair to say that the program did come to the right conclusion, it’s not the marketplaces fault (eBay and Amazon were in fact praised for the work they’ve put in to delivery advice and guidelines). It’s also not the individual retailers fault, according to Citizens Advice Scotland, often the retailer is just as bemused as the consumer as to why it costs so much to deliver to the Highlands an Islands.

Who’s to blame?

The blame lies with the courier companies, retailers are simply passing on the surcharges that they impose for delivery to certain parts of the UK. Good advice given is that Royal Mail have a set price to all corners of the country for light weight items and that’s something that inhabitants of offshore Islands love.

The big question of course is should I who live in Berkshire effectively subsidise deliveries for someone who’s chosen to enjoy their retirement on beautifully quite off shore Island? The simple fact is that it does cost more to deliver when a boat journey is involved.

Royal Mail offer a flat delivery charge across the country

It’s also not fair of Citizens Advice Scotland to say Royal Mail offer a single price for up to 20kg to anywhere in the UK. Whilst that’s an indisputable fact, what wasn’t stated is that not only are Royal Mail very expensive compared to other carriers contract rates above a certain weight, and also that Royal Mail’s own courier, ParcelForce, surcharges for deliveries to the Highlands and Islands!

If retailers used Royal Mail exclusively that would necessitate price hikes for deliveries to everyone in the country. Even with the low cost, soon to be defunct, Standard Parcels, something like a pair of boots could easily cost £12.30 to post.

Is it fair to surcharge?

According to 3,000 angry Scots who responded to the survey on rural delivery charges the answer is “No”. Citizens Advice Scotland want to put convince retailers to change their ways and stop surcharging, and intend to put pressure on government and regulators to take action.

I have a parcel to send tomorrow, not to Scotland but to the Isle of Wight. City Link are charging 50% more to deliver to the Isle of Wight than for the two parcels I sent to London and Derby yesterday. I grimaced, grumbled under my breath and just accepted the price. I didn’t like it though.

What’s your opinion? Do you surcharge for deliveries to parts of the UK?

23 Responses

  1. I have to say that when we send something urgent, or expensive, to anywhere within the UK we now use Special Delivery.

    It would be fine for me to go through the rigmarole of creating a rate table within eBay in order to make surcharging clear to those that live in far flung places. But that annoys them, as shown by the survey, and they then take that annoyance out on DSRs.

    We already have to be very careful with what we charge. Tesco can get away with it as they are a retailer. eBay aren’t and they have a system that rates you on postal charges. The only other option we could have would be to block customers from these places, and that wouldn’t be fair either.

  2. I’ve always thought it was unfair. As a seller using mostly couriers I’ve charged a standard UK rate for postage, even though I’ve been surcharged for couriers.

    If you keep a check on your customers and don’t have too many from Highlands and islands it works out quite well. Mainland customers have never noticed and we have plenty of happy Scottish and Irish customers.

    Fortunately most sellers reading this will think I’m crazy, so I keep the punters:)

  3. I send quite a few first aid items to Scotland and generally use Royal Mail as the items are fairly light, and to date, have had no problems or complaints from my eBay customers.

    For heavy items, such as the Winter Survival Kit, I offer customers a range of postal options such as Royal Mail or a courier service so that the customer can choose how much they want to pay. As I don’t have any control over shipping costs charged by the main suppliers, I’m not really in a position to subsidise my customers.

    I will say one thing for Royal Mail – a customer in Scotland asked me for some kits at 4pm one Friday afternoon and needed them by 11am the next day. They were quite prepared to pay the extra for Next Day Saturday delivery and Royal Mail got the packet there by 8.30am the next day – both of us were really impressed!!

  4. Amazon did away with surcharges earlier this year so highlands islands, even jersey are processed at a standard UK rate. So the report is wrong if it is mentioning amazon marketplace.

    Other than that we do pass on the delivery charge via the website and ebay. We sell worldwide and our delivery price is is basically a few percent over cost. If this follows, should also charge a flat rate worldwide?

    Most carrier don’t surcharge if you are sending from scotland to highlands.

    royal is cheaper for scotland up to about 5 kg and then even the surcharged carrier rate is cheaper.

  5. Trouble with ebay is they have wrongly classed aberdeen/aberdeenshire one of the richest places in the uk and well over 200,000 potential customers as islands for over 2 years.

    now after a large protest post on ebay forums complaining about this they have fixed it by making it wrong again its now classed as highlands therefore when blocks are used this area is blocked so i believe is some other parts of scotland and parts of england.

    couriers and royal mail are here on a daily basis and i am 42 miles north east of aberdeen

  6. Should add anyone who surcharges me for a ROYAL MAIL delivery will be marked down accordingly based on the fact royal mail deliver to the whole of the uk for the same price.

  7. We do have a condition of surcharge on ebay listings, as a general rule if we can ship a different way for a similar cost be it slower or not we will, we do not like surcharging customers but for example if it is something 25kg and bulky going to jersey we simply have no option but to do so, that said we always give the customer the chance to either cancel the sale or arrange their own courier should they prefer.

  8. I have seen companies with a surcharge for anywhere in Scotland. They were selling storage heaters and charged £50 extra.

  9. We surcharge and we subsidize on eBay.

    Our standard delivery charge is £39.99 Inc Vat for a pallet (costs us £41.26 inc Vat)

    For Scotland we charge

    Scotland Zone 1 DG/TD/KA/ML/EH/KY/FK/G/PA £64.00 (costs us £67.00)
    Scotland Zone 2 PH/DD/AB/IV/KW £96.00 (costs us 98.00)

    We do a lot of business in Scotland, I’d like to do more but suspect a lot are put off by our delivery costs, but, with VAT at 20%, eBay now taking 10%, Paypal, Fuel Surcharges etc etc there is only so much you can give away.

  10. We don’t surcharge for highlands or islands when we send via courier.

    Also I wonder what the surcharge will be when good old Alex has his ‘independent’ country of Scotland?

  11. never mind the surcharge you have a choice to pay or not to pay , scots should be banging the drum about gaining fast broadband , and if scots refused to pay the surcharge vendors and couriers would soon change if the business were there

  12. Alex “highlander” Salmond.
    An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”.

  13. An independent Scotland outside the EU would be classified as “Europe” for postal purposes with all packages from England having to have a customs slip attached and shipped at airmail rates.

    Have the Scots and ebay thought of that independence implication?

  14. Has Alex Salmond decided on whether or not an independant Scotland would be inside or outside of the EU? There are no doubt arguements for either alternative. In my case as somebody dedicated to the UK being outside of the EU I would support Alex opting for an independant Scotland being outside of the EU but as the whole point of Scotland being Independant is so that Scotland and the Scottish can make their own decisions, what we used to call Self Determination, I doubt if they will take any notice of my point of view from Cornwall.

    However surely if they opted to stay in the EU it could be just like sending post to Ireland(Southern Ireland) and if they withdrew from the EU it would be the same as sending post to Norway.

    Of course that could mean that somebody in say Northern England posting a letter or parcel to a destination only a few miles away the other side of the Border would find that it was probably a lot cheaper to deliver it by hand.

  15. Neither Norway or Switzerland are a part of the EU. I have not travelled from Sweden to Norway or France/Switzerland or Germany/Switzerland overland recently. What Border(Customs)Controls are there in place?


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