Stamps could soon see the most dramatic price rise in years. Ofcom has said Royal Mail should be able to set its own first-class stamp prices, but is it wrong to put such power in Royal Mail’s hands?
The new postal regulator Ofcom (previously Postcomm) is to begin an 11-week public consultation on what should be done with Royal Mail and its loss-making letters business.
If you’re a big letter sender, Ofcom’s proposals might make you wince, so brace yourself:
- Royal Mail should have the freedom to set its own first-class stamp prices, with current caps removed.
- The same freedom should also be allowed for large second-class deliveries, business mail and bulk mail.
- A cap will be put in place for second-class stamps, but this could be between 45 and 55p – up from the current 36p.
There’s no doubt that Royal Mail’s losing money – people are sending fewer letters and this decline is speeding up, not slowing down. Therefore, Ofcom has argued that its proposals are necessary to ensure the survival of an affordable six-days-a-week universal service.
Are stamps worth the extra cost?
Still, since 2003 first-class stamp prices have grown by 70% and second-class by 90%. Can we really take an even heftier price rise? When we last talked about the issue, opinion was largely split. Susie70 said she was happy to pay more:
‘Although in this computer age I use the Royal Mail less and less, I still think it is a bargain.’
However, Snowdin didn’t think the service they were getting justified the increase:
‘I think it’s a big rise especially for people living outside cities where internet services can be patchy and slow.’
And that’s the crux of it. Many of us might be happy to pay more for a stamp, but if the service stays static – or even gets worse – are we really getting value for money? Our Royal Mail investigation this year found that we’re getting an inconsistent “third-class” service, such as other people’s post being dropped on your doormat.
Prices could keep on rising
Richard Lloyd, our executive director, had this to say about Ofcom’s proposals:
‘Many people tell Which? they find the postal service patchy or inconsistent and the pricing of postage confusing. Ofcom must explain how these proposals will maintain a universal service that is increasingly efficient whilst remaining affordable for consumers.
‘It is essential that these plans don’t result in a downward spiral, with more people put off sending letters, leading to even higher prices.’
And who’s to say that Royal Mail’s newly found power won’t see it burst out of control, greedily ramping up prices? You’d hope Ofcom would step in, but we’ve previously seen Royal Mail allowed to increase the cost of renting its PO Boxes by a staggering 170% in just two years.
Many of you were outraged by this PO Box price increase, so much so that some have told us that they have been forced to stop using the service. But perhaps that’s the price we have to pay to keep Royal Mail afloat?
Should Royal Mail be free to set its own stamp prices?
Nay (70%, 147 Votes)
Yay (28%, 60 Votes)
I don't buy stamps (2%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 211