I fully agree, and we need to do more to secure the vibrancy of these remote locations.
Citizens Advice produced a short report entitled “The Postcode Penalty”. It was done a few years ago, and a number of the respondents to the survey were from my constituency in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. The report appeared to conclude that some online retailers are disadvantaging Scottish consumers. I think that we could extend that to consumers and our neighbours in Northern Ireland and those elsewhere in our United Kingdom. At that time, approximately 63% of retailers that charged extra for delivery to remote locations did not offer delivery by Royal Mail, which was referred to by Hugh Gaffney, as an alternative. It may be prudent to offer the customer this lower-cost and very trusted service.
I understand that it is a breach of consumer protection to add an additional charge after purchase, with the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 providing that prior to the conclusion of a contract from distant sellers—that is, a transaction that is not done face to face—they are required to disclose delivery costs so that the purchaser is not caught unawares by what are, in some cases, very significant charges. However, such transparency does not detract from the often disproportionate and unfair charges for those who, for a variety of reasons, may not be free to choose or change where they live, and so become embroiled in this delivery postcode lottery.
It may be prudent to look at the proud founding principles of the Royal Mail, which was established in 1516. The introduction in May 1840 of the penny black postage stamp paved the way for the prepaid one-price-goes-anywhere postage system that we love and value in the UK today. This system applies—the hon. Gentleman will keep me right— to 30 million addresses in the United Kingdom, including 2.5 million addresses in Scotland. It is a six day a week service and caters for parcels up to 20 kg. Royal Mail’s sister company—this is like an advert for Royal Mail—Parcelforce Worldwide has a single Scotland-wide tariff for all mainland deliveries and has limited surcharges to highlands and islands contract customers only.
In closing, we must bear in mind the fact that in many cases rural incomes tend to be less than their city counterparts, and that surcharges are a financial burden on a limited income. I ask the Minister to strive to let us have some fairness and equality when it comes to delivery charges in rural areas.