Will you abandon Royal Mail now that stamps cost 60p?

by , Conversation Editor Consumer Rights 30 April 2012
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It will now cost you 60p to send a first-class letter with Royal Mail’s stamp price rise coming into force today. The service will deliver your letter to any part of the UK for 60p – good value or an end to your posting days?

1985 Which? magazine - red letter

Rising from 46p, a first-class letter (weighing up to 100g) will now cost you 60p to post with Royal Mail – a significant 14p bump from the cost last month. A second-class stamp has also gone up, from 36p to 50p. It’s the single largest price rise in Royal Mail’s history.

And many people around the country have been stockpiling stamps to save on posting letters in the future, including Wavechange:

‘I bought £45.60 worth of stamps at the weekend and could have had more.’

But is this price rise all that bad? I had a look through the Which? magazine archives, and found myself in 1985 when first and second-class stamp prices were 17p and 13p respectively.

Next to today’s prices, that looks incredibly cheap, but how much would they really cost in today’s economy? Well, when you take inflation into account, you’re looking at approximately 43p and 33p. Interestingly, that’s not too far off the price of stamps before this latest price rise.

‘Phenomenal’ postal network

However, despite the increase, some Which? Convo commenters still think a 60p first-class stamp is a bargain, like Steepleview:

‘60p is still ridiculously cheap. To be able to post an item and have it delivered the next day or the day after, anywhere in the whole of the British Isles is phenomenal. The logistics of this are truly mind-blowing.’

And Pippa thinks the rise is needed for Royal Mail to survive:

‘If Royal Mail is to survive it needs to be able to raise enough money to do so. I think the government has held them back and not let prices rise with inflation. If the post office can begin to make money and continue to provide the excellent service we have come to depend on we will all be the winners.’

Will postboxes become distant memories?

Yet, there are those commenters who don’t think the price rise is justified, like A.Lockyer:

‘I think Royal Mail will price themselves out of the letter delivery market. Email is cheaper and quicker and the way forward. The postbox on the corner of the street will soon be a thing of the past just like the telephone box.’

Complaints about the new prices often come down to poor service, with John Dover saying:

‘The new price for first-class would be fine if first-class letters arrived the next day. However, they often take much longer, so you are not getting what you have paid for.’

This is a complaint that goes all the way back to 1985 – a letter taking too long to arrive was the most common complaint in our 1985 survey (over three-quarters of all those dissatisfied).

In the infographic to the right (click to enlarge) you can see what proportion of first-class letters posted in our 1985 letters test (where we got 300 people in all parts of Britain to post 6,000 letters) arrived the day after posting.

So, it doesn’t look like much as changed since 1985 – except the price of stamps. Are they too expensive for the service you get from Royal Mail? Or is it still a modern day bargain?

26 comments

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Dave D

My concern is not with the face value of the stamps (at least, that isn’t my primary concern).

My concern is that if you use a franking machine the prices are so much lower – at work today the franking machine was updated, but 2nd class franked is only 31p and first class franked is only 44p.

That’s great for me, in my present job, because my employer is happy for us to post anything we like that is personal, as long as we pay in cash at the time of posting, but we only pay the franked mail price.

But what about all the people who are unemployed or who are elderly (i.e. retired)? They most certainly will not have access to Franked mail rates, not even via a generous employer, and they will also have less income to spend on postage. They’re also more likely to be the people who have less or no access to alternatives such as e-mail.

Why should the big businesses, for whom franking machines are primarily intended, get a preferential rate for the same service compared to the people who actually NEED the post most?

I also object to stamps no longer bearing the price paid (just having 1st or 2nd on them). I don’t blame people like Wavechange for bulk-buying at the old rate, and I have done this myself in the past too – I don’t blame anyone for doing it. BUta gain, this penalises the poorest in sociaty as they are the least likely to have enough surplus income to buy up vast numbers of stamps at the old rate.

To ensure equality and fairness, stamps should show the value and when the rate goes up I’m sorry but everyone, including Wavechange and I should (and would) have to pay the new rate, either at the franking machine or by buying additional smaller denomination stamps to augment the ones already in stock.

Compared to these unfair systems I’m actually not bothered about the new rates – they are not unexpected and postage has always seemed expensive for years.

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John Ward

I agree with Dave D.
The 1st and 2nd class postage labels were introduced by the Post Office to avoid inconvenience when postage rates went up by a penny or two. People didn’t bother to stock up in advance in those days. More recently the labels have served the Post Office well to disguise the true cost of postage. There were more advance sales but they were not a problem because people probably only bought twenty or thirty which were gone in a month or two. Now, however, because the price rise is so enormous this year, people have been purchasing stamps in advance on an epic scale such that allocations have been restricted for fear of advance sales cancelling out the extra revenue. We have been fortunate to have some outstandingly good stamp issues lately and I have been buying them for that reason.If I am sending a first class letter I like to put a really good stamp on it; as a bonus I have a good stock of stamps that will last me through most of this year I expect. Although I use e-mail for most routine correspondence, I shall stick with Royal Mail for important business because [a] it is still an excellent service overall, [b] a letter commands more attention, cannot easily be ‘forwarded’ to all and sundry, and – if it carries no e-mail address – evokes a more responsible reply , and [c] a hard copy on letterheaded notepaper is a more pleasing document.

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ArgonautoftheSeas

May consider using FAX for service of proceedings/documents where
ordinarily by first class post AND it is not permitted, email service.

Don’t like TNT doing the postal deliveries since they took over
which has consistently been after 5.30 pm and no Saturday
deliveries to date.

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ArgonautoftheSeas

Actually if recipient is prepared to be co-operative
or helpful like in the case of my instructing solicitor including
cases requiring sight of my signature, it can all be done
by email AND having use of both printer and scanner.

The recent increase in price is unprecedented, really much too much
and shall use the post only as a very last resort if I do not already
have.

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Sophie Gilbert

I wonder if this will make us all think twice before sending all those Christmas cards.

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John Ward

No . . . but I think they should return to the larger size of stamps for the special Christmas issue – the recent editions have looked incredibly mean with the picture miniaturised almost beyond recognition.
With so much competition in the greeting card industry it’s getting difficult to find cards now that exceed the cost of the stamp [Card Factory especially have really cheap multi-packs - dreadful designs but price compensates for postage charge].

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ArgonautoftheSeas

E-greeting cards – and all for free – that play tunes, talk and move
(as to characters/stuff therein) has long superseded slo-mail cards that is
further consigned never to be purchased, especially w r t sending to
faraway places overseas.

I expect a further decline in sales in the greetings/Christmas cards
market.

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John Ward

I agree with you Argonaut, but they don’t stand up on the mantelpiece so well as a piece of cardboard and a number of our friends and relations do not have a suitable device for acessing these cards. Plus they like the deckled edges, the pretty ribbon, the embossed lettering, the bulbous padding, the see-through cut-outs and the sprinked glitter dust. And the corny jingles on the e-cards really don’t quite cut the mustard do they? But as you say, just as people are increasingly dressing up their annual ‘Round Robin” newsletters as creative Word documents with pictures and graphics, e-mailed to the entire family address list, the hand-written and lovingly sealed Christmas card is going into steep decline.

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John Harvey

Organisations for the elderly, unwaged and disadvantaged should offer a service where they can have their manuscript letters scanned in and e-mailed to relatives for a nominal charge.

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ArgonautoftheSeas

Wd be happy to receive Christmas greetings electronically
in reciprocity but I’ve some old friends who insist on doing things
the old-fashioned way and I expect this year shall be no different
(and they are all on the net).

Arguably the physical card carries a bit more weight if (more)
expense, bother and perhaps thought have gone into sending it
that is, of course, much appreciated.

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ArgonautoftheSeas

Did I read Royal Mail/Post Office shall provide
a discount on charges made on providing proof as to the
less well-off?

Hi Argonaut, I believe it is only for Christmas stamps (late November till Christmas Eve) that pensioners and those on benefits can buy up to 36. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-mail/9183804/Royal-Mail-rationing-cut-price-Christmas-stamps-to-pensioners.html

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tpoots

The unfortunate thing here is that many are completely dependant on Royal Mail to deliver their letters. While you can shop around for competitive courier prices for your parcel, you’re pretty much at the mercy of Royal Mail for posting your letters.

Personally, the increase probably isn’t bad enough to have a significant impact on myself but I feel for the older generation who rely on such methods as their primary form of contact.

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rarrar

But even the new prices are not out of step with the rest of Europe.
The Royal Mail has to provide a universal service which none of the competition do , this allows the competitors to cherry pick the easy and lucrative deliveries and leave the Royal Mail with all the loss making deliveries.

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richard

I have just over 500 2nd class stamps – I run a newsletter for our kennels four times a year – to keep us all together and to raise some funds – frankly 400 newsletters that cost around 40p to print and 50p to post is £360 four times a year or £1440 out of my pocket. I really don’t think I can afford it – nor can I expect our adopters (who already pay to adopt our dogs) to pay individually for the newsletter – So it is likely that I will stop sending quarterly newsletters and restrict it to one a year with the Christmas Card.- except for those with a computer and broadband.

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wavechange

I can sympathise, Richard. It is a lot of money. I am involved with a charity with a lot of older members who do not use computers and our magazine is an important way of keeping in touch and keeping them as members. My experience is that paper magazines are often appreciated but not many people bother to read ones circulated by email or put on websites.

Two societies that I’m involved in have bulk purchased stamps to cover the next year’s magazines, but that just delays the problem. One of the societies is making use of people to do hand deliveries to save money.

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Colin

You post up a nice test result graphic from 1985, but provide no comparison with how the performance over the last 27 years has changed. Is the postal service better, worse, or the same as then?

Good question Colin – our most recent Royal Mail postal survey was in July 2011: http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problems-with-royal-mail-services-postal-service/ though there will be more detail in the magazine article itself. Thanks

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Mike Greenwood

I dont mind paying a reasonable price for a good service. I would be happy to pay the higher price, if I get a good service. For the service we get at the moment NO !

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pete

When they introduced the letter size and charge a few years ago I lost any sympathy with the Royal Mail.
I understand the reason behind it but it was so confusing you would end up putting more stamps on just in case, the last thing you wanted was someone to have to go to the post office and pay to get there birthday card I no longer send anything like the number of letter I use to even the company I work with have stopped
I now do most of my correspondence by email and the Royal Mail now putting up the price because less people want to use them now is not going to persuade me to start using them again in fact I am starting to think they are looking to make the post office so unpopular that no one will mind if it is given to a private company to make deliveries

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Sylvia Thomas

Royal Mail have been going down hill a long time, and to add 60 pence to a first class stamp when half the post is not delivered is making fools of people, I have a lot of penpals so letter will now be sent on line, and very few Xmas cards will be sent by post, mainly on line, Royal mail will lose out big time.

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Gary

Whilst, I’m happy to pay 60p what really upsets me was the £2.70p to post a very small packet that weighed in at under 12 grams and because it was a couple of mm to big to fit through the slot without a squeeze. I had around 50 of these packets, so do the math ; (

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D morgan

The price is 60p not to fund the traditional service, but to fund the over the top pensions they’ve been offering for far too long and not funding properly out of their own wages, its a ripoff that we have to suffer because of incompetent management and government over the last 40 years, most of the people in middle management are setting up their own private delivery outfits and outsourcing themselves back to royal mail for more money, its the usual mess, they’re are plenty of people within royal mail hierarchy making plenty of money at the publics misery and expense. also the fudging they’ve been doing on letter categorisation, the differentiation between letter and large letter, letter cant be more than 5mm thick regardless of weight and then forcing you into the large letter category meaning it costs even more, is also price gouging, they’re scum they should have the royal removed. The fact that nobody is somehow responsible for their current state, is indicative of how morons seem to be able to run company’s and get away scot free when they balls it up and get given fat pensions and golden parachutes, and retire somewhere else with cotton wool in the ears, deluding themselves of their previous industrious and pointful career. And now these price increases are described as necessary to “save the service” more like save our over promised pensions BAH they’re should be no such thing as guaranteed pensions, either you pay in the necessary dues or not, if you didn’t then tough.

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Figgerty

Royal Mail, why am I unable to go on your website and obtain a post code without having to set up an account. I have to supply name, address, landline phone number and mobile phone number and if I do not supply all the details, I will not be able to find the post code. I wanted the post code to send a card to someone who moved house and to obtain the information I provided all fictitious information just to obtain the post code.

I don’t know why I bothered as the post code is to make things easier for Royal Mail and speed up sorting and delivery of mail.

Stamp prices – I only use second class stamps since the increase to 60p.

Why does so many of my letters have UK Mail etc. identifiers when Royal Mail delivers the mail.
Are we, the home customers subsidising the business customers.

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wavechange

I do not understand. I have just obtained a postcode without logging into the Royal Mail site.

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Figgerty

Neither do I understand. It works ok now,
When I tried to obtain the post code at the weekend, it did not matter how many times I clicked ‘Find a Postcode’ I did not get the opportunity of entering an address. The only way I could find out the post code was by setting up an account.

Perhaps they were doing work on the site. It was not a senior moment, I tried it several times.

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