First Minister hits at unfair rural parcel charges

First Minister Alex Salmond has described unfair rural parcel charges as a hugely important issue.

He urged online retailers to display their charges clearly, base charges on actual costs and offer the Royal Mail as a delivery option.

He also called for retailers to offer a flat rate to the Scottish mainland for any parcel under 20kg and urged UK Minister Ed Davie to act on the issue. He said people throughout rural Scotland are entitled to a fair service.

Angus North & Mearns MSP Nigel Don had asked the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on the financial impact on rural communities of higher delivery charges for online deliveries.

Mr Don highlighted the practice of some companies of charging by postcode, quoting the case of a Stonehaven woman who was told she would have to pay extra because she appeared to live in the Highlands.

Speaking after First Minister’s questions, Mr Don welcomed the First Minister’s assurance and also welcomed the recent Citizens Advice Scotland report which brought these practices to light.

“People in rural areas have always relied on mail order,” said Mr Don, “and now online shopping is an essential and normal part of rural life. Companies who overcharge for delivery through their ignorance of Scottish geography are simply not helping themselves.

“I also support the Consumer Focus Scotland recommendation made in 2010 that online retailers should always offer more than one means of delivery, with the Royal Mail being an excellent option.”