Consignia eyes move into telecoms

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The Independent Online

Consignia, formerly known as the Post Office, is launching an array of new services, which could include telecoms, in an effort to boost revenues.

The expansion comes at a time when Consignia's income is under pressure due to the increased use of e-mail and competition from private postal delivery companies.

The proposed telecoms move would be a countrywide scheme, say insiders. It could involve delivering fixed line and mobile services under a Post Office brand, although this is likely to be in partnership with a telecoms provider. Such a move would mark a return to telecoms for the Post Office after almost 20 years. In the days when it was known as the GPO, it incorporated British Telecom before this was privatised in the early 1980s.

Consignia is looking at measures that will improve its reach in rural areas. Later this year, it intends to open post office counters in rural railway stations in partnership with Connex and Anglia Railways. It is also operating mobile post offices in some areas, and is talking with local authorities and county councils about putting post office counters in tourist information centres and libraries.

Consignia has been criticised in the past over the closure of rural post offices. It is also facing a reduction in over-the-counter business, as people claiming benefit will soon be paid straight into their bank accounts.

"We are looking at new products and services to make it easier for our customers to do a lot of everyday things and [also to] expand our customer base," said a spokes-woman for Consignia, although she would not comment on the telecoms plans. The company is also branching out into travel insurance, foreign currency and pension services.

Postcomm, the postal services regulator, has now allowed the support services company Hays to set up mail services in competition with Consignia. It is also consulting on proposals to allow Business Post, the quoted mail company, to offer services to businesses and Deya UK to provide services in the event of industrial action.