The Post Code Penalty report by Citizens Advice Scotland should be read by those who wax lyrical about the rise in Internet shopping on Boxing Day because bargain hunters could not get into London because of the unholy alliance between ASLEF, TfL and ISPA The delivery penalty imposed on deliveries to those who live in rural areas by on-line retailers who do not offer the option of delivery by Royal Mail can more than wipe out the savings from shopping on-line.
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It is not just HMRC who are being ripped off by VAT, Corporation Tax and Business Rates dodgers. Perhaps worse, the penalties for the million or so Scots (and unknown number of inhabitants or rural England and Wales) affected may not become apparent until the goods do not arrive and the purchaser has fought their way through opaque complaints procedures to discover that the goods are sitting in a haulage depot awaiting payment of an unpublicised surcharge.
The cause merits investigation by the OFT and/or Ofcom accompanied by co-ordinated and systemic enforcement action by Trading Standards . The consequences should also give for thought to those seeking to drive through the privatisation of Royal Mail, despite apparent opposition from the majority of voters (although only the SNP and CWU are going public on the root reason for that opposition). We should not forget that Ofcom’s primary responsibility is the citizen/consumer interest (Communications Act 2003, General Duties 3 (1) and also (4) (k) and (l). It may, of course, be that Ofcom does not regard the views of those in rural areas as “relevant” and believes some-one else should take action against those selling over the Internet in breach of of the Distance Selling Regulations (2000), summarised in more readable form on the OFT Website. My previous blogs on the Nominet consultation on the future of .uk (not just yesterday when I was being measured and responsible but my earlier venting of spleen) are also relevent. Who has (or should have) the responsibility for taking action (e.g. removing the registration under current terms and conditions) of those currently using .uk names to trade on-line in breach of the Distance Selling regulations and the e-Commerce Directive Regulation?
P.S. Note that while Amazon is one of the good guys (who do not charge extra for shipping to the Highlands and Island) this does not apply to those using Amazon Marketplace – where the situation is nearly as bad as among those trading on e-Bay. I was pleased to see that one of my favourite sites, play.com, is among the good guys alongside John Lewis and Marks & Spencer. Interestingly I have been able to find old films and TV series on play.com that I can no longer find via Google – says something about the new search algorythms. Perhaps the links are hidden behind the advertising funded dross.