Royal Mail wants to charge for size as well as weight

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The Independent Online

The Royal Mail yesterday unveiled plans for the biggest shake-up in postal prices since the introduction of the Penny Black. The changes, which involve charging for letters according not just to their weight but their size, could result in people paying more to send large birthday cards, CDs and rolls of photographic film through the mail. But heavier items such as books and magazines could cost less to post.

At present, the amount it costs to post an item depends solely on its weight. Any item up to 60 grams costs 28p to send first class. But Royal Mail wants to start charging more for large items which it must process by hand rather than automatically.

The organisation insisted that its plans would not involve any price changes for three-quarters of all the mail it handles. It also said the overall revenue it raised from postal charges would remain the same.

David Dale, who is described as the Royal Mail's "head of size-based pricing", said: "These proposals would bring our prices more into line with our costs. The current pricing structure has been in place for decades and is inherited from a time when all the mail was hand-sorted, and so is increasingly out of date."

Under the Royal Mail's plans, there would be three new categories of post. Ordinary letters up to 100 grams in weight which currently cost 28p-42p first class would cost a flat 28p. But large letters would start at 46p rather than 28p while packets would start at 93p rather than 28p. However, for heavier large letters and packets, the maximum price would come down from £1.68 and £3.45, respectively, to 83p and £1.79.

The aim is introduce the new pricing regime from September next year. The postal watchdog Postcomm announced a three-month consultation exercise on the planned changes. Nigel Stapleton, Postcomm's chairman said: "These proposals would involve major changes. I hope as many people as possible will let us know what they think."

Peter Carr, the chairman of the consumer watchdog Postwatch, said: "If allowed, this will be a profound adjustment for customers, businesses in particular. The regulator is right to be cautious and consult widely before deciding on such radical alterations to current practice."