Watchdog says Royal Mail’s redirection service unfairly penalises unmarried couples and spouses who keep their own names

Royal Mail’s redirection service is an important offer to consumers yet its pricing structure is unfair, outdated and too costly, Citizens Advice says.

Citizens Advice is urging Royal Mail to change the cost of mail redirections from a “per surname” to a “per household” basis.

By charging per surname, a couple with different surnames would be charged double for the mail redirection service, penalising unmarried couples and spouses who keep their own names. This goes for children and elderly relatives with different surnames to the householders as well.

The UK is out of step internationally with this practice, with the Netherlands being the only other country in Europe to do so that the charity was able to analyse. Adding the cost of just 1 additional surname makes it more expensive than any other country, according to the same analysis.

Citizens Advice found that more than half (55%) of people who have moved house within the last two years live with at least one person who has a different surname to them.

Citizens Advice, the statutory consumer advocate for postal services, compared the cost of the mail redirection service over the past 6 years to other services.

The charity found that since 2012, the price of a 3-month redirection has increased by 74%, while 2nd class stamps have only gone up 12%.

Currently, consumers pay an upfront fee per last name for the mail redirection service based on the length of time they want to use it. There are 3 packages available:

  • Up to 3 months –   £33.99

  • Up to 6 months –   £46.99

  • Up to 12 months – £66.99

Of those Citizens Advice surveyed, 1 in 4 (26%) cited the price as one of the reasons why they didn’t take out the service last time they moved.

Citizens Advice is also calling for Royal Mail to make their mail redirection service more affordable, by offering an option to pay in monthly installments for those who can’t afford a one-off payment and concessionary rates for consumers on the lowest incomes.

More than 8 out of 10 (84%) consumers think Royal Mail should ensure its redirection service is affordable for people who need to use it.

The same survey found those who did pay for mail redirection were highly satisfied with the service they received.

According to the Office of National Statistics, around 1 in 3 (32%) families have “non-traditional” structures outside the married heterosexual couple, such as cohabiting opposite sex couples, same-sex couples and lone parent families – all of whom may have different surnames.

Research from Citizens Advice found almost 1 in 5 (19%) people have problems with their mail when moving. This was higher amongst vulnerable groups, including disabled people and those on benefits. Not getting important mail can sometimes have severe consequences, such as falling behind on bill payments, missing medical letters or even becoming a victim of identity fraud.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Many people rely on Royal Mail’s redirection service yet it’s designed for households of the past.

“Consumers are facing a double whammy. Royal Mail has drastically increased the price of redirection over the years, but hasn’t changed its outdated price structure that assumes families always share the same surname.

“We’re calling on Royal Mail to change its mail redirection service to no longer charge per surname within the same household. As the dedicated universal service provider, it has a duty to make sure this service is fair and affordable.”