Caithness man fights excessive delivery charges to Highlands with new venture

Written by Clay Winowiecki on 7 December 2017 in News

New business to tackle 'rip off' delivery charges inundated as MSPs debate petition by Richard Lochhead MSP

Delivery charges protest - Richard Lochhead MSP

A Caithness man has been “inundated” with business after setting up his own delivery company to tackle “rip-off” parcel delivery charges for rural areas.

Additional costs levied by delivery companies to those living in highland and island postcodes has been raised in both Holyrood and Westminster in recent days, including a heated debate last night in the Scottish Parliament over a petition by Richard Lochhead MSP.

At the start of November Gary Gunn from Wick quit his job and launched the KWICK courier service to deliver parcels across the Highlands at a cheaper rate than other parcel companies. His Facebook page has already amassed nearly 1,500 likes and a 5-star rating.

Gunn told Holyrood he is “not chasing a fortune” but the service was “badly needed” when other parcel companies are “being greedy and there’s absolutely no need to be”.

Comments on his Facebook page have praised his service and “competitive price”.

A new report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has revealed customers in northern areas of Scotland are asked to pay at least 30 per cent more, on average, for parcel delivery than consumers elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

In the Scottish islands these rates are even higher at 50 per cent on average.

There was consensus in the Scottish Parliament as MSPs backed a motion by SNP MSP Lochhead, which cited two examples. 

In one instance the retail company Halfords charged £50 to send a set of towels costing £5.99 to Speyside. LloydsPharmacy also charged £50 to send a mobility scooter to a terminally-ill woman in Keith, despite advertising free UK delivery on their website.

“I believe that December 2017 will go down as a turning point, when, with household budgets already under pressure, the people of Scotland will say enough is enough—no more rip-off parcel delivery surcharges,” Lochhead said.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said further regulation of delivery companies was needed.

“To see a meaningful difference, we need a universal rate for all deliveries. Companies should be allowed to set their rates, but they must be universal for all customers,” she said.

The issue was also raised by Moray MP Douglas Ross in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday: 

“In my Moray constituency this is a huge issue where ridiculous prices are put on to deliver to our area and in some cases, companies refuse to deliver at all. What [can] the UK government do with myself to ensure we right this wrong?” he asked.

Theresa May replied: "Royal Mail does provide a universal postal service that includes parcel services five days a week at a uniform price throughout the United Kingdom, but there are commercial issues that play outside this service."​

According to the CAS report, more than 80 per cent of consumers affected by the extra charges feel it is unfair. Nearly the same percent, 83, agree they would buy more online goods if not for the extra delivery fee.

At the launch of the report Consumer Futures Unit spokesperson Nina Ballantyne said: “Many online retailers are not transparent about the [extra] charges. So consumers are unable to make informed choices. We believe that any delivery charges should be up-front and justifiable, and would like to see consistent pricing policies across the UK.

“We are committed to finding solutions for consumers and are working with delivery companies and other consumer groups to reduce delivery costs and improve transparency. We hope to identify suitable trial projects in the coming year, in partnership with the Scottish Government, local authorities and communities.”

A spokesman for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said delivery charges are a commercial matter and should be "left to the market".

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