Consignia takes Hays to court over ticket deliveries

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The Independent Online

Consignia is to take Hays to court for running a competing delivery service that the former Post Office yesterday branded "illegal".

Hays, the support services group, has for 20 years run a business offering delivery of travel tickets, itineraries and invoices between travel companies and their branches and agents. Hays, which serves Thomas Cook and Thomson Travel, said the move could cause summer peak chaos.

Consignia said: "Hays does not hold a licence for the service it provides to business customers. It has cherry-picked a segment of the market. If postal operators are allowed to cream-skim the market, then undoubtedly Consignia's ability to deliver a universal service at a uniform price to the UK's 27 million addresses would be put in jeopardy."

A court hearing is due tomorrow, at which Consignia will seek an immediate injunction to stop the Hays service. It said the business did not conform to the new Postal Services Act, in force since March, which requires a licence for providing a mail service costing less than £1 a letter.

Hays hit back by saying that the act applied to "communications" such as letters, rather than ticket deliveries. It added that some of the services offered cost more than £1 an item.

The contested service, worth just £10m a year, is included within the three licence applications that Hays has lodged with the regulator, Postcomm, for niche business mail services. Postcomm will be decide this autumn on the applications.

Peter Carr, chairman of Postwatch, a consumer watchdog, said Consignia was trying to disrupt the Hays service before that licence decision, so forcing its customers to turn to Consignia's Royal Mail.

"Consignia has to stop complaining and get on with developing a better service, which would attract customers.... This is petty and needless aggression," Mr Carr said.