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The future of the Universal Service Obligation

21 November 2023

The future of the Universal Service Obligation [ 0.79 mb]

Ofcom has recently announced that it is reviewing the Universal Service Obligation (USO), which sets out the standards and principles for the UK postal service.

In a time of digital transition, it is right that the financial sustainability of the service is considered, but this cannot be the sole focus. With letter post monopolised by Royal Mail, the USO remains central to consumer protection and access to what remains an essential service. In recent years we’ve seen significant price hikes against a backdrop of year-on-year delivery failures and millions without access to mail. We’re concerned that the lack of effective regulation under the current USO means Royal Mail actually has few incentives to deliver for consumers.

This review is an opportunity to both future-proof the USO and truly make it work for those it is there to protect. What would this mean in practice? A postal service that delivers on three essential pillars: affordability, reliability and universality.