Royal Mail delays hit an estimated 15.7 million people in the last month
Almost one in three of us (15.7 million people) experienced letter delays last month.
Worryingly, 7.3 million people experienced negative consequences as a result, such as missing health appointments, fines or bills.
The charity, in its role as the independent watchdog for postal consumers, calls on Ofcom for a full root and branch review of post delays.
Almost one in three of us (15.7 million people) were hit by post delays in the last month, according to new research for Citizens Advice that shows how post delays continue to plague consumers.
The research uncovers the harm these delays are causing, with 7.3 million people experiencing knock-on effects such as missing health appointments, fines or bills, according to the charity’s polling. This is up from the estimated 6.2 million people that the charity’s previous research found were seriously impacted after missing important mail over Christmas.
The charity says the increasing numbers negatively impacted by delivery delays comes despite peak delivery periods of Black Friday and Christmas having passed and no strikes since the end of 2022.
Trigger warning: baby loss
"More than four hospital appointment letters didn't arrive on time, my pregnancy was considered high risk and I was so stressed out."
Winifred is 24 years old, she lives in Hemel Hempstead and has an 8-week-old baby. During her pregnancy, she waited for multiple hospital letters that failed to arrive on time.
She said: "When I was pregnant, I had more than four appointment letters that didn't arrive on time, I actually missed one appointment.
“Another time, I knew I had an appointment that week, but hadn't received the letter so I went directly to the hospital to ask when the appointment was. They told me it was the next day - if I hadn't gone to the hospital to ask, I would have missed it.
"I was so stressed out not receiving the appointment letters. I lost my first baby so I used to panic about every single thing during my pregnancy. Attending the appointments was so important for me.”
Sian Hiller, Chief Officer, Citizens Advice Edenbridge and Westerham says:
"We hear first-hand the detrimental impact letter delays can have on people.
“Just the other day I spoke to a client who had missed the deadline to respond to a family court hearing because the letter arrived after the deadline date - it was upsetting to hear the distress and anxiety it had caused them.
“This situation is not uncommon, we often hear of the effect letter delays can have on people as we work with them to try to rectify the situation."
The charity is also concerned that the impact of these delays isn’t falling proportionately across the population, with people of colour nearly twice as likely (23%) to experience negative consequences as a result of letter delays compared to white respondents (13%). Similarly, 21% of disabled people experienced negative consequences as a result of letter delays, compared to 13% of non-disabled people.
MPs recently highlighted evidence that Royal Mail had prioritised parcels over letters and called on Ofcom to investigate this issue across a number of years. The charity’s latest findings show 31% of us experiencing letter delays in the last month, compared to 22% experiencing parcel delays.
Citizens Advice says its latest findings, coupled with MPs' concerns, show it’s no longer enough for Ofcom to take a business-as-usual approach in its current investigation into delays. It’s calling on the regulator to launch a multi-year review into mail delays and deprioritisation.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Royal Mail’s delays are still at appalling levels and it’s consumers who are being saddled with the consequences.
“We’re seeing millions of people missing important post. But given Royal Mail’s virtual monopoly of letters, people have nowhere else to go for their mail.
“Delayed post been an issue for years and the problem is only getting worse. Ofcom must now do a full root-and-branch investigation into mail delays.“
Notes to editors
Walnut Unlimited surveyed 4,007 18+UK adults between 25 May to 5 June 2023 to ask them about their experiences of letter delays. Questions that were asked included:
Thinking about any post you’ve received from or sent with Royal Mail in the last month, has any of your post been delayed or not arrived at all? 31% said they had experienced a letter delay and 22% said they had experienced a parcel delay.
Did you experience any negative consequences because a letter was delayed or didn't arrive in the last month? 15% said they had experienced a serious negative consequence, including missing important documents (9%). missing a health appointment (6%), paying bills late (3%), missing a financial appointment (e.g. a job interview) (3%), and losing money through fines (2%).
Did you experience any negative consequences because a letter was delayed or didn't arrive in the last month? 23% of people of colour had experienced a serious negative consequence as a result of letter delays, compared to 13% of white people.
Did you experience any negative consequences because a letter was delayed or didn't arrive in the last month? 21% of disabled people said they had experienced a serious negative consequence as a result of letter delays, compared to 13% of non-disabled people.
15.7 million people estimate worked out using Citizens Advice research finding 31% of people experienced letter delays in the month leading up to the fieldwork period of 25 May to 5 June 2023 and ONS 2021 Mid-2021 Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
7.3 million people estimate worked out using Citizens Advice research finding 15% of people experienced serious negative consequences due to letter delays in the month leading up to the fieldwork period of 25 May to 5 June 2023 and ONS 2021 Mid-2021 Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
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