Islanders dismayed by ‘rip-off’ delivery prices for online goods, says CAB survey

People in Shetland are furious about being charged “rip-off” delivery prices when they buy things online, according to new research from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The CAB surveyed people across rural Scotland recently, and found that many companies refuse to deliver to “remote” addresses such as the Northern Isles altogether, or at best charge huge fees for doing so. Many Shetlanders responded to the survey and it has proved so popular that it has been re-opened by popular demand.

Local CAB manager Les Irving is now urging even more Shetland consumers to have their say in the re-opened survey of delivery charges, knowing that the offer of “free delivery” does not stand up to scrutiny.

He said: “This [original survey] has uncovered huge anger about this issue. Some of the examples reported are really shocking. It’s especially insulting to be told that a company will deliver ‘free throughout the UK’ but then find that this excludes us here in Shetland, and half of Scotland.”

The original survey attracted responses from nearly 900 people across northern Scotland, including many from Shetland. This showed that 84 per cent of respondents had been refused delivery outright, or that companies they bought from used expensive couriers which charge high prices for remote deliveries, rather than Royal Mail, which has uniform prices for the whole of the UK regardless of location.

Anecdotal evidence has revealed that islanders have been charged as much as £80 for a delivery normally costing £20, and £55 instead of the normal £5.

Mr Irving said: “The survey has been so popular with shoppers that the campaign is today re-opening it online, to enable more people to report their evidence of this issue. I am urging local people to respond to it now, if they haven’t done so already.

“Our survey has shown that people are fed up with being treated like this, and want something done about it.”

The survey has aroused such interest that people wanted to contribute even after the deadline. Mr Irving said: “People have even been coming up to us in the street and asking us if it’s too late to report a particular instance that happened to them. This is quite unprecedented for a survey like this, but it shows the strength of feeling.

“We will be reporting this evidence to the Office of Fair Trading, and to trading standards, as well as to both the UK and Scottish governments. Citizens Advice Scotland are also writing to the companies named by respondents, to ask them to change their policies in the light of this evidence. We will be naming the companies and publishing more detail of that in the New Year.”

The CAB service is determined to protect consumers against unfairness, he said, and assured local people that this campaign was only just beginning.

He continued: “We are aiming to persuade these companies to change their policies. After all, our survey shows they are losing potential trade, which is cutting into their profits.”

According to the survey, 85 per cent of respondents have warned friends and family against using certain companies because of their excessive charges. Mr Irvine said: “Changing their pricing policies would make sense for them too. It would not only give rural people a fair deal but would increase their own trade.

“The more evidence we get, the better, so we urge everyone to take a few minutes to fill in the survey and let us know their views. This is people power in action.”

The survey is now open again at:, or in paper form from the local CAB. It will remain open until midnight on 19th January. All the evidence will go in the next CAB report, to be published in the New Year.


Add Your Comment
  • Jack Harcus

    • December 20th, 2011 15:15

    I have for some time refused to buy goods from suppliers who add on high delivery charges.Lately I have used Amazon who were offering free delivery(at least not an added extra to the buying price)
    It is gratifying to learn that I am not alone complaining about horrendous delivery charges to the islands.Lets hope all these offending suppliers will get the message.We know that Royal Mail offers the best delivery service to the Shetland Islands(same cost to deliver outside London as to the outlying districts).

  • Colin Hunter

    • December 20th, 2011 16:48

    My recent Amazon orders have been somewhat different. I ordered two quite high value items and some other lower value items about 3 days later. I paid the extra £6 or so on the high value items for “express delivery”. I used the “tracking” facility to follow the progress of the parcels. The two items I ordered on the 11th and 12th arrived the Aberdeen Depot on the 14th and 15th respectively, both in plenty of time to have been on the boat that night. One arrived yesterday, having taken an additional FIVE DAYS to come from Aberdeen, and the other is still nowhere to be seen. The other, low value items, which were ordered on the evening of the 15th, came with the postman yesterday (19th) morning! It is ironic that, the very reason I paid the extra was because I thought that it would come by post, rather than a “carrier”.
    I have also had some severe “rip off” attempts with carriers. One such was a spare part for my son’s car which, at £45 was under half the price I could source it locally. It was Free delivery UK mainland, so I asked for it to be delivered to Northwards in Aberdeen for onward shipment. I was told they couldn’t do that as their own carrier had to deliver it to me personally. Bearing in mind that is would have cost about £10 at most from Aberdeen, I was astounded to find that the carriage was £49.99! So! Suddenly £0 + £10 = £49.99! To include my reply would not add to this posting in any constructive way!
    The thing that is most annoying is that there is no consistency. I, like many other Shetlanders, have bought things on Ebay. Many of the items have been of similar weights and sizes, and while some have arrived painlessly with the Postie, other sellers have emailed saying that their carrier refuses to deliver to that postcode, or requires a Kings ransom to do so. When you reply and ask them politely to “just post it” they say it’s not possible and they want to charge extra for “overseas”.
    Why, then have I seen one UK based seller on Ebay, charging £21.99 (lited on to deliver post free from the UK to the USA when the same seller is charging £25.99 (on for the same item delivered in the UK! “Rip-Off” Britain is indeed alive and well!

  • Paul Jamieson

    • December 20th, 2011 20:49

    Somebody offer Colin a job.

  • Robert Birchall

    • December 21st, 2011 16:10

    I agree with those who comment about the rip off delivery charges to Shetland. What is even more galling is that goods delivered to Yell are frequently not delivered on the day they arrive in the island but are taken north and stored until the carrier makes his weekly run around the isle. The only way to overcome this is to actually go north and collect the goods ones self, that is after paying an extortionate amount for “next day” delivery to the door. Imagine how frustrating this can be knowing that goods paid for plus the extortionate delivery charges have passed within half a mile of their final destination and may well be sitting in a shed in Cullivoe for the next week unless collected in person. It is not only the firms south who are taking the mickey out of the public but some of the local carriers are at it too.

  • Colin Hunter

    • December 21st, 2011 18:48

    The idea of de-regulating such things as parcel delivery in the first place was to encourage competition and lower prices. It appears to have had the opposite effect, at least in outlying areas. Any “carrier” who tenders for a contract should, in my opinion, be bound by law to deliver to every part of the area they cover EVERY DAY! The Post office does, so why not the rest? When you phone up carrier X enquiring where your parcel is they either know nothing about it, because it may actually be with carrier Y or Z, or they’ll say, “It’s here, and will be delivered next Wednesday, because that’s the day we do that run.” Or you can go to Lerwick (at great personal expense) and fetch it yourself! It’s simply not good enough, especially when you voluntarily pay extra for “Express Delivery” and it ends up being slower, mostly due to the dilatory attitude of the “end of line” operators.


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