Amnesty on postal rate errors

Postal bosses have declared a Christmas amnesty for minor infringements of its new postal charges, the EDP has learned, despite customers having four months to get used to the new rates.

Postal bosses have declared a Christmas amnesty for minor infringements of its new postal charges, the EDP has learned, despite customers having four months to get used to the new rates.

The Royal Mail says it will adopt a common-sense appr-oach to "genuine mistakes" for people who under-price Christmas cards and it will waive a £1 penalty charge.

However, blatant offenders will have to pay extra for cards or small parcels to be delivered if the wrong stamp has been clearly attached to the item.

Most Christmas cards will still cost 32p, though larger letters - up to 14 inches long and under 100g in weight- will cost 44p. For a packet, that is basically anything bigger than a large letter, charges start at £1.

Royal Mail spokesman James Taylor said: "We think most people know what the changes are but we do also accept that it takes a bit of getting used to so we will adopt a common-sense approach.

"If we feel someone has made a genuine mistake, we would not surcharge them but where it is obvious that they have not made a mistake and put a 32p stamp on when it should be 44p then we would surcharge"

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The surcharge - levied on the recipient - is £1 plus difference in the post. The Royal Mail says that figure is to compensate the Royal Mail for the additional time, effort and labour involved in sorting the offending letter by hand.

Mr Taylor added: "If people do get charged we would urge them to take it up with the person that sent the card."

There were concerns that Post Office queues would be longer than normal at Christmas with customers queuing to double-check the price of cards rather than stick a 32p stamp on. But with the Royal Mail saying that 80pc of mail will cost the same to send as before, that kind of gridlock at the counters is not expected.

John Smith, Norwich branch president of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, said: "We are not expecting any longer queues than normal at this time of year. From the position of sub-postmasters and post offices it has gone relatively smoothly and there has not been more queues as a result. What causes the queues is the stuff we do for Ebay sales and the overseas post; that is what takes the time.

"We are not finding the price changes a real problem and that is why it was introduced in August to let people get used to it."

The Royal Mail Christmas postbag is expected to be around two billion cards in the four weeks up to Christmas Eve.

In the Norwich postal area, the normal mail is 25.7 million items in a typical four-week period but that soars to 31.4m in the four weeks up to Christmas Eve. Staff numbers at the Norwich sorting office also rise by 310 from the normal level of 1,149.