Royal Mail is the designated provider of the Universal Postal Service – the six-day a week, one price goes anywhere postal service that Royal Mail delivers to 30 million UK addresses. This is often referred to as the Universal Service Obligation.
Ofcom is the postal services regulator. It is responsible for safeguarding the one price goes anywhere, affordable Universal Postal Service to all UK addresses.
Ofcom’s primary duty under the Postal Services Act 2011 is to carry out their functions in relation to post in a way that they consider will secure the provision of the Universal Postal Service. In discharging their duties in relation to the provision of the Universal Service, the Act also requires Ofcom to have regard to the need for the provision of the Universal Postal Service:
To be financially sustainable, including the need for a reasonable commercial rate of return for any Universal Service Provider; and
To become efficient within a reasonable time, and then remain so.
Minimum Universal Service requirements
The Postal Services Act 2011 sets out the minimum requirements the Universal Service Provider must deliver. These are statutory. They can only be altered with the consent of the UK Parliament. The minimum requirements for all postal items not subject to exemption (including those whose weight does not exceed 20 kilograms or whose dimensions fall outside minimum and maximum dimensions):
1. Delivery of letters or parcels (including those posted outside the UK)
At least one delivery of letters every Monday to Saturday to every address in the UK.
At least one delivery of other parcels every Monday to Friday to every address in the UK.
2. Collection of letters or parcels (including those for onward transmission outside the UK)
At least one collection of letters every Monday to Saturday from every access point in the UK used for receiving letters and parcels for onward transmission
At least one collection of other parcels every Monday to Friday from every access point in the UK used for that purpose.
3. Service at affordable prices at a uniform public tariff
Postal services – (including conveying, receiving, collecting, sorting and delivering) at an affordable, uniform public tariff across the UK; and to places outside the UK.
4. A registered items service at a uniform UK-wide, affordable public tariff.
5. An insured items service at a uniform UK-wide affordable public tariff.
6. A free-of-charge postal service to blind or partially sighted people.
7. Free carriage of legislative petitions and addresses.
8. Redirection, Post restante and Retention services
In rare circumstances, Ofcom may grant exceptions to the minimum Universal Service requirements. These include remote or inaccessible addresses, or addresses that present a temporary safety risk for Royal Mail employees (for instance, due to an uncontrolled dangerous dog on the premises).
Quality of Service
Royal Mail has an obligation to monitor and meet performance targets for Universal Services, including a USO 1st Class target of 93.0% and USO 2nd Class target of 98.5%.
Notification and Publication
Royal Mail has an obligation to publish clear and up-to-date information concerning Universal Services, including the terms and conditions of those services (including prices), and latest delivery times and specified collection times. With the exception of price reductions, Royal Mail is required to publish, and notify Ofcom and Consumer Advocacy Bodies of relevant changes to Universal Service products at least one month in advance of implementation. Royal Mail is also required to notify Ofcom and Consumer Advocacy Bodies of its quality of service performance.
All relevant postal operators are obliged to protect the integrity of mail by taking all reasonable steps to minimise the exposure of relevant postal items to the risk of loss, theft, damage and/or interference, as well as taking all reasonable steps to address issues promptly.