A CAMPAIGN to eliminate "jaw-dropping" delivery fees to people in Moray has been boosted by the area’s MSP and MP.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead staged a debate in Holyrood on Wednesday to highlight the problem, the same day as MP Douglas Ross raised the issue at Westminster during a question to Prime Minister Theresa May.
In his speech at the debate, Mr Lochhead called for the Scottish Government to take the case to retailers and couriers, and lobby its UK counterparts.
Mr Lochhead said more Scots than ever will shop online this Christmas. He said: "In rural areas in particular, the Internet can be a godsend, especially for goods that are not available on our own doorsteps. Yet, for a large part of our country, online shopping comes with a big, expensive drawback. Many households and businesses are being ripped off by retailers who are charging jaw-dropping and completely unjustifiable sums for delivery."
The SNP MSP said many retailers deliver free, or at low cost, elsewhere in the UK, but impose "hefty surcharges" to much of Scotland, including Moray.
"A delivery fee of £50 was demanded for despatching a £5.99 pair of hand towels to a Speyside constituent of mine; a £60 surcharge was levied for sending a small £8.99 item—a nozzle for a washer—to Fochabers; and another Fochabers constituent purchased spare car parts from Germany with free delivery, rather than pay up to £45 for delivery from elsewhere in the UK.
"What started as a Moray campaign has gone national
"I have been contacted by people from throughout the country via fairdeliverycharges.scot and social media and I have learnt a lot.
"I have heard cases in which the surcharges for delivery to addresses in Elgin, on the A96 with IV postcodes, are higher than delivery charges to nearby rural villages with AB postcodes, and cases in which the opposite is true. The blunt use of postcodes is a big problem.
"I visited a community in Moray where the boundary is a field. The houses with IV postcodes at one end of the field are subjected to huge surcharges, such as £32.99 delivery for a referee’s whistle and mini-wallet costing £7.95, while the houses at the other end get charged only £4.95 delivery for the same item.
"No wonder the public are completely exasperated."
As well as Moray, Mr Lochhead said much of the north-east and northern Scotland is affected. And while he noted that not all retailers impose surcharges and others keep them reasonable, he described "an inconsistent picture".
"Some retailers offer free delivery to some or all postcodes, or minimal surcharges, but others apply huge surcharges," he said.
"There is no rhyme nor reason to how many of the surcharges are calculated. As we all know, astonishingly, some mainland Scottish postcodes are not mainland UK, according to many retailers.
"I ask Scottish and UK ministers to deliver an early Christmas present to up to one million Scots by pledging to tackle these rip-off delivery surcharges."
In Westminster, Mr Ross told the Prime Minister that one million customers in Scotland are asked to pay at least 30 per cent more on average than shoppers elsewhere in the UK. In Moray, he said the charging of "ridiculous prices" was contributing to a "huge issue". The Prime Minister said the UK’s business secretary would be happy to meet with Mr Ross to discuss the issue.
Speaking afterwards, the Conservative MP said: "I raised the anomaly of extortionate delivery charges to Moray in my maiden speech when I entered parliament and there has been considerable cross-party efforts since then, as it is a hugely important issue to many people in Moray.
"I have been contacted by many individuals and businesses who have been charged extortionate amounts for having things delivered and often point-blank refusal to deliver to our area.
"By raising this directly with the Prime Minister I wanted to show how seriously we are taking this at Westminster and I will be able to use the response the Prime Minister gave me when pressing companies to change their unacceptable practise of inflating the costs of delivering to this part of Scotland. I am also looking forward to meeting with the secretary of state to see how we can progress this vital issue."