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A new redirection? How to make mail redirections fairer and more affordable for consumers

16 August 2018

A new redirection? How to make mail redirections fairer and more affordable for consumers - Full Report [ 0.94 mb].

Moving house is a difficult and expensive time. So it’s understandable that arranging for mail to be redirected can seem like an afterthought. Yet consumers who don’t do so are exposed to potential problems, such as missing medical appointments and payment deadlines or, in severe cases, fraud.

Royal Mail offers a mail redirection service which covers almost every UK household. Our research with over 4,000 consumers indicates that the redirections service is working well for those who use it. Around 1 in 2 (50%) people have used the service and 95% say it is easy to set up.

But the cost and lack of affordable payment options are discouraging certain consumers. The price of a 3-month redirections package has increased by more than 70% since 2012, while the price of 1st class stamps has risen just 12% over the same period. People who find it hard to make ends meet are nearly 5 times more likely to say they wouldn’t be able to afford the service at current prices.

The price structure is also outdated and unfair, charging a fee for each different surname. This means that people with 2 different surnames - such as renting housemates, unmarried or gay couples - pay twice as much as a married couple with the same surname. This affects a significant number of people: 1 in 3 UK families have “non-traditional” structures - that is, something other than a married heterosexual couple. Our research shows that 2 in 3 people who would be affected by the per-surname charge say it could stop them using the service.

We’ve identified 4 changes to make redirections fairer and more affordable.

  1. Royal Mail should change the cost of mail redirections from a “per surname” to a “per household” basis. The current structure is out of step with modern industry practice and consumer expectations.

  2. Royal Mail should offer consumers the option of paying for mail redirections in monthly instalments. Consumers want the option to pay in this way, and it would particularly help those on low incomes.

  3. Royal Mail should explore concessionary rates for consumers on the lowest incomes. A discount rate limited to those least able to pay could increase take up and ease financial pressure.

  4. Ofcom should specifically include the mail redirection service in its next review of the affordability of universal postal services. Mail redirection is part of the Universal Service but was not referenced in its 2013 assessment.

Update: After viewing an advance draft of this report, Royal Mail wrote to Citizens Advice on 7 August 2018 acknowledging that the per-surname charging structure should change to make it 'more reflective of society'. It has not yet provided further details of how it intends to implement these changes or when they will come into effect. We will continue to monitor the redirection service to ensure consumers feel the benefit of these changes.