New postal regulator warns Royal Mail over monopoly

The new chairman of the postal regulator, Postcomm, served notice yesterday that the watchdog's efforts would be redoubled to end Royal Mail's letters monopoly.

Nigel Stapleton, who takes over from Graham Corbett in January, said there was evidence that rival companies were still being deterred from setting up in competition.

His comments follow last month's wildcat postal strikes that crippled deliveries in London and demonstrated that competition to Royal Mail still does not exist 18 months after the market started opening up.

"Clearly, there are some remaining barriers to competition which need to be addressed. We need to ensure that the framework is delivering what it is intended to deliver and, if it is not, we need to move quickly," Mr Stapleton said.

Mr Stapleton, who is a former chairman of the publishing group Reed Elsevier and the advertising company Cordiant, and now chairman of the convenience food manufacturer Uniq, will be paid £75,000 a year for a three-day week.

By the time he takes over, Postcomm aims to have settled the all-important issue of access prices - how much rival operators must pay for use of Royal Mail's "last mile" delivery network to all homes in the country. In his initial proposals, Mr Corbett suggested a figure of 11p a letter compared with the 28p price of a first-class stamp.

Mr Stapleton said he would listen to the view of the Government, which still owns Royal Mail, but would not submit to any pressure.

"Those who know me know that I am not a pushover. If the Government really wanted a tame poodle, my own track record does not suggest that," he said.

He also said he looked forward to working with the Royal Mail chairman, Allan Leighton, but cautioned that he did not believe in "regulation through negotiation.

"That suggests compromise, and I do not believe regulation is about horsetrading," Mr Stapleton said.

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