Royal Mail defends its increase in stamp costs

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CONSUMER campaigners and business leaders have criticised the latest price rise which will see the cost of a first class stamp increase by 2p to 62p and second class by 3p to 53p.

The increases will take effect on March 31, two years after the last increase in stamp prices, although the now-privatised Royal Mail maintained it had “thought carefully” about the impact on customers and its business before making the decision.

The Consumer Futures group claimed the three per cent rise in first class and five per cent increase in second class stamp prices were above the current inflation rate of 1.9 per cent. Since 2009, prices have increased by 59 per cent for first class and 77 per cent for second class.

Robert Hammond, of Consumer Futures, said: “Any price rise is unwelcome especially at a time when household incomes are being squeezed and given that stamp prices have increased more than the rate of inflation over the past five years.

“This is a very significant increase in the price of an essential service and those consumers who continue to use it will look much harder at the value for money and quality of service that they get. Those without a reliable fast broadband connection or unable to use alternative means of communication to the post service will be the hardest hit, whether individuals or small businesses.”

The chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Allan, added: “Rising stamp prices are yet another unwelcome cost on doing business, especially for those who rely heavily on the postal service. Businesses will have to make a choice whether to absorb this rise or pass it on to their customers.”

Royal Mail stressed that, under the regulatory framework, it could have increased second class stamps to 57p, and its prices were among the best value in Europe where the average for a first class letter is 67p and 60p for second class.

Managing director of consumer and network access Stephen Agar said: “We understand that nobody likes to pay more, especially in the current economic climate.”