JERSEY business owners have raised concerns about Royal Mail plans to replace the Island’s daily mail flight with a slower, ‘clunky’ ferry service.
One said he feared that local retailers selling on Amazon would be hit hard as the online giant prioritised sellers by delivery time as well as price. The changes could see it taking at least a day longer for letters and parcels to travel between the Island and the UK.
The plans, which are currently out for consultation to Royal Mail stakeholders, are part of Royal Mail proposals to ‘simplify and update’ its operation.
While Jersey’s mail currently arrives on a dedicated daily flight, Royal Mail has argued that, owing to declining volumes of letters, using a ferry instead would be more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly. It is not clear whether any savings would be passed on to customers.
The Royal Mail said that it was not reviewing the flight to and from the Bailiwick of Guernsey ‘at this stage’, but added that it may do so in the future. If the ferry changes are approved for Jersey, the Royal Mail would be able to make such a change ‘without further consultation’.
Also proposed is a change in the definition of ‘due date’ in the Channel Islands to allow for additional working days for sending and receiving mail.
The Royal Mail is bound by Ofcom regulations to offer a next-day delivery service. This means that, for customers who pay for a ‘first-class’ delivery, the ‘due date’ for a package is the following working day from the date of posting. For customers who pay for second-class post, the ‘due date’ is the third working day following the date of posting.
Jersey is not bound by Ofcom regulations but it has nonetheless historically had the same ‘due dates’ as the UK. The Royal Mail now wishes to change this definition to allow for an extra working day for packages to arrive in the Channel Islands.
Jersey Post would not elaborate further on the proposed changes, saying: ‘This consultation forms part of a wider review of its services by Royal Mail and while it is ongoing, and the outcomes unknown, it would be inappropriate for Jersey Post to comment further at this time. Our priority is ensuring our customers receive a reliable, consistent service.’
Paul Murphy, chief executive of Jersey Business and a former chief executive at eCommerce firm Onogo, said: ‘Any retrospective step is dangerous for business, especially as the outside world is getting faster.’
He added that any delay would have an impact on ‘supply chains, consumers and for those businesses which both import and export’ with exporters likely to see reduced revenues as a result of the longer delivery times.
Echoing this, Jake Shaw, director of the online retailer Euraco, said that losing the mail plane would have a ‘substantial’ impact on his business.
Adopting a ferry, he said, would result in a ‘slow, clunky service’ which would add an extra working day to any delivery. Poor weather in the winter months was likely to exacerbate this delay even further, perhaps by as much as two or three days, he added.
Mr Shaw explained that most of his business came from Amazon, and that Amazon’s algorithm prioritised sellers by price and by delivery time.
As 80% of UK orders are next-day delivery, even an extra day would see Euraco lose out to other sellers who could offer a speedier delivery time, he said, adding: ‘It’s absolutely ruthless. If you add even a day, they almost kick you off.’ As a result, Mr Shaw fears he could see the volume of orders drop by up to 50%.
Mr Shaw said: ‘What we are seeing is our own operator looking to slow us down. Our volume will decline. If this goes through, realistically, what is the point in us using Jersey Post? Their USP is the plane. If they cut that, I’m struggling to see the point in us paying them a margin.’
The Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authority has stated that it is monitoring the consultation, which will run until 2 June. Any changes will take effect on 3 August.