ONE in three Scots experienced problems with parcel deliveries over a period of a year according to new research which has led to calls for more action.
The most common complaints included lost parcels (21 per cent), items being delayed (17%), items delivered to the wrong place (13%) or receiving cards to say the item could not be delivered when someone was at home at the time (12%).
The YouGov analysis covering the year to April, 2021 for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found that only 34% of people who had experienced a problem reported it or complained to the delivery company. And of those who did complain, 61% were dissatisfied with the response, with only 21% satisfied.
It comes two weeks after it emerged a shortage of delivery drivers for courier service Hermes left thousands of parcels at depots ahead of Christmas.
Residents of Glasgow, Huntly in Aberdeenshire, and West Dunbartonshire have been left waiting weeks for parcels that were supposed to have been delivered by Hermes – but instead have been left at local depots.
Proposed new rules are being considered so that people who send and receive parcels are better protected.
The regulator Ofcom has said it is cracking down on the sector saying that consumers “should be treated more fairly”.
Ofcom plans to tighten up the rules on how firms deal with complaints, making it easier for people to contact companies and bring in better protections for disabled customers.
It warned that if it did not see “substantial improvements” in customer service and complaints handling, then it would consider enforcement action or further, tougher regulation.
CAS strong communities spokesperson Gillian Fyfe said: “This research shines a spotlight on an industry that is clearly not doing its job. Parcel delivery companies need to see this as a red letter day for them to get their act together.
“Perhaps these findings don’t come as a huge surprise. After all, everyone has their own personal stories of parcels arriving late or damaged, going missing or being left in a neighbour’s hedge. Sadly, a lot of people will have had their Christmas marred by such failures.
“But we are also concerned about the fact that people don’t trust parcel delivery companies to resolve their delivery issues. It’s a basic principle of consumerism that people should be able to complain about poor service. Complaints lead to redress and also drive improvements in the service, so when complaints are not happening, poor service can become the norm.”
Commonly reported problems include parcels being left in insecure or inaccessible places such as doorsteps and wheelie bins; the driver leaving before the customer could get to the door; people finding a “sorry you were out” card on the doormat despite being at home; not being able to get through to someone if there is an issue; and companies refusing to take responsibility for mistakes.
CAS said it wanted a clearer complaints processes, allowing people to hold companies accountable for failures.
And they said the want to see parcel companies giving people both digital and non-digital options to contact them about any issues.
Ms Fyfe added: “Our research identifies some of the barriers that stop people complaining. These include a lack of confidence that the complaint will be taken seriously, and a lack of clarity about how to complain.
“We welcome Ofcom’s proposed new guidelines for how parcel companies handle complaints. We will continue to share our views with Government and industry regulators to ensure the voice of Scottish consumers are represented in any changes to regulation.
“With more and more people shopping online, consumers in Scotland are entitled to a delivery service that is efficient, effective and responsive.”
Ofcom has said its research found that around a quarter of senders found it difficult to make a complaint or to contact the parcel company when their delivery went wrong. Two in five said their complaint was only partially resolved, while almost one in 10 were left with their complaint completely unresolved.
Under Ofcom’s existing rules, all postal operators must have a simple and transparent complaints process in place. It now hopes to strengthen this by saying that customers must be told who to contact and what channels they can use to make a complaint, and also what the process will be and how long it will take.
Consumers must also be dealt with by staff who have had the appropriate training.
Ofcom is also proposing a new demand for firms to set up, publish and comply with clear and effective policies on the fair treatment of disabled customers, who are more likely to experience problems.
As the so-called “universal service provider”, Royal Mail is subject to more regulation than other postal operators. The regulator said its review had found that these rules and safeguards were “generally working well”, though it continued to be concerned about Royal Mail’s efficiency performance.