- Monday, 23 July 2012
A new report from Consumer Focus - Sense and Sustainability - explores how 21st century consumers are likely to use the postal service in the future given the range of communication options available to them.
The report is intended to encourage debate on how the postal service should change to meet the needs of consumers in the digital age, as use of mobile phones and the internet replaces letter writing. In particular it explores the possible implications for the universal postal service obligation.
The research revealed that consumers' habits when communicating for personal and business reasons have changed over recent years and are continuing to change, and that in the future they will use the postal service in a different way.
Consumers are placing a different emphasis on the service, with a shift from sending letters to receiving parcels, which means a greater interest in making deliveries more convenient.
Key findings from the research also showed that:
- residential consumers may be willing to accept a reduced number of postal deliveries during the week
- residential consumers are also prepared to see the removal of the distinction between First and Second Class post as they see little meaningful difference in service quality between the two
- consumers want several 'paybacks' for a reduction in service frequency
- greater innovation in delivery options for packets and parcels extending the number and range of pick up points to include longer opening hours and more convenient locations
- maintaining the current pricing structure ('one price goes anywhere')
- regulation of reliability and punctuality
- the majority of consumers felt that vulnerable groups, such as low income households, older people or those with disabilities, would be further excluded by wider use of electronic forms of communication and wanted the postal regulator, Ofcom, to be given powers to protect these consumers.
Robert Hammond, Director of Postal Policy said:
'The communications market is changing dramatically and quickly, and post cannot be left behind. Consumers tell us that post will still have a role in their lives in five years' time and the postal service must reflect their changing needs. We know that this will require a difficult debate that potentially involves changes to existing regulation and legislation, but that is all the more important that we begin this discussion now.
'There is a growing tension between the substance of the universal postal service and its sustainability. Consumers should not be obliged to pay a premium for a 'gold-plated' service. But that means that policymakers will need to think long and hard about how to ensure that technological advance and changing markets deliver good value and service to consumers, particularly the most vulnerable.'
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