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MSP slams minister for Moray postal 'snub'

By Alistair Whitfield

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Richard Lochhead.
Richard Lochhead.

RICHARD Lochhead has criticised a UK government minister for saying she was too busy to come to Moray.

Mr Lochhead invited Kelly Tolhurst, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, to visit the AB-IV postcode boundary to discuss his campaign to end rip-off parcel delivery surcharges.

However Ms Tolhurst has now written back to decline, saying that her "diary is very busy".

Mr Lochhead said: "It’s extremely disappointing that the Conservative government minister has decided she’s too busy to visit Moray to learn more about how local consumers face paying absurd and unfair parcel delivery surcharges.

"There is nothing better than people seeing for themselves the postcode boundary where homes close to each other pay wildly different parcel delivery charges and to meet people directly affected by this issue.

"Given her party colleagues have suspended Parliament and given MPs five weeks off, I think it is incredibly poor that she can’t find the time to visit Moray to discuss my campaign to end these rip off fees.

"The UK Government Minister has repeatedly ignored calls for legislation to tackle these rip off delivery surcharges, despite offering assurances that she understood the need for action.

"This seems to be a case of out of sight out of mind and the Minister clearly doesn’t understand the strength of feeling locally, as the reality is consumers and small business in Moray want to see urgent action to end these discriminatory practices.

"Scots consumers forked out £38million on delivery surcharges last year due to the unacceptable practices of many online retailers and their couriers – that alone should be enough to convince the UK Government to act."

Mr Lochhead launched his campaign two years ago to tackle online retailers that apply excessive delivery surcharges.

He continued: "The Conservative Government has the power to act but imposing a damaging Brexit seems to be all that matters these days. The Minister can be assured that my campaign to end these rip off surcharges, which has secured cross party support, will continue."

In her reply to Mr Lochhead's invitation, Ms Tolhurst wrote: "Dear Richard, Thank you for your letter dated 18 July. You will understand that my diary is very busy at the current time and I am therefore unable to accept your invitation.

"I would like to confirm that I have a telephone call scheduled with Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills on 11 September which will include a discussion about parcel surcharging.

"As I explained at the Westminster Hall debate in July, much progress has been made by the Consumer Protection Partnership in tackling the issue of transparency to ensure that consumers know what charges and restrictions are in place before they purchase and can choose not to accept them.

"In parallel, enforcement bodies are taking action where retailers fail to comply with legislation.

"The issue of whether those charges are fair is more complex and one that is also being looked at by your Government through the Fair Delivery Action Plan.

"The best way forward is for the CPP and officials in both governments to work together on this to achieve better outcomes for Scottish consumers."

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