News & Press

Leaving mail with a neighbour risks knocking confidence in postal services, warns Consumer Focus

Published: 15 September 2011

New research released today by Consumer Focus shows that people are unconvinced and unimpressed by Royal Mail proposals to leave post with a neighbour if they are not home. 

With the high level of consumer concern – and one in five people unhappy for any of their neighbours to receive any of their post – Consumer Focus thinks that any Royal Mail trial of their delivery proposals should be independently monitored for customer satisfaction. If the scheme is subsequently implemented, it is essential that people have a choice about whether to participate in the scheme. A range of other solutions, such as the increased use of post offices as alternative delivery points, lockerbanks at convenient locations, or paid-for evening deliveries should be considered before full roll-out of the delivery to a neighbour option. 

Consumers have serious concerns, ranging from whether they trust their neighbours with their post to worries over whether their postman or woman should decide who mail should be left with. People were even less enthusiastic about neighbours taking in more important mail, such as post sent by recorded delivery:

Key findings from the watchdog’s research show:

  • Four in five consumers (80 per cent) thought they should be able to opt in or opt out of having a neighbour receive their post;
  • Half (49 per cent) said it wasn’t acceptable for a neighbour to sign for recorded post

Natasha Dare, Consumer Focus postal expert, said, ‘Although some customers may think a neighbor receiving their mail  would be convenient, four out of five  think they should be able to choose whether this should happen.  Many people don’t know their neighbours well, and wouldn’t want valuable or private mail to be left with them. We are calling on Royal Mail to give people a choice.’ 

Royal Mail’s proposals say that it will be down to postmen to choose which neighbour to leave post with – but people say they don’t think their postman would know their neighbours well enough to make this decision:

  • More than half (52 per cent) of consumers said they didn’t think their regular postman would have a reasonable knowledge of whether they knew or trusted their neighbours;
  • This rose to seven in ten (68 per cent) who thought a postman new to their round would not be able to make an accurate judgement about whether to leave post with a neighbour. 

Those sending post want to know that it has been delivered correctly and arrived safely, and senders have also expressed their concerns with these proposals.  Over half (54 per cent) said they would not be happy sending parcels or recorded delivery post if they knew delivery could be to the recipient’s neighbour. 

Natasha Dare, Consumer Focus postal expert, said, ‘We understand why Royal Mail are looking for ways to deliver post in a more cost-effective way.  But they can’t simply adopt a one-size-fits-all model. This should be just one option – not the only solution on offer.’ 

If Royal Mail goes ahead with a trial it must carefully assess the effects on all four groups concerned: people sending post; those it’s sent to; neighbours who may receive it; and postmen. The success of the trial must be judged on independently monitored customer satisfaction and not just on whether Royal Mail’s costs are reduced. 

People also have reservations about taking delivery of their neighbours’ post. Nearly half (46 per cent) said that they wouldn’t be happy to take responsibility for the condition of post they accept on behalf of a neighbour – especially as Royal Mail will consider post left with a neighbour as having been ‘delivered successfully’. People who accept an item in good faith for their neighbour could find themselves legally responsible for the safety and condition of the mail they receive. 

Natasha Dare added: ‘People want a reliable post service, with mail delivered safely and in good time. If this most basic service is undermined, consumer confidence in Royal Mail may suffer. The success of any changes to mail delivery must be judged on consumer satisfaction and not simply a reduction in Royal Mail’s costs.’ 


Notes to editors

  • The research was carried out by GfK NOP on behalf of Consumer Focus. 2054 adults aged 16 plus in the UK were contacted face-to-face between 18 and 23 August 2011. Data has been weighted to bring it in line with national profiles.
  • Currently, undelivered post is taken back to the delivery office and a P739 card is put through the recipient’s door, detailing their three options: redelivery on another day; collection from the Delivery Office; collection from a Post Office (for a £1.50 fee).

If the item is not collected/redelivered after a certain number of days the item is returned to the sender as undelivered.

Royal Mail proposals are:

  • The postman will attempt to deliver ‘undeliverable’ items as normal
  • If the addressee is not at home, the postman will go to the property of a neighbour, defined as someone who ‘lives within close proximity’. The postman chooses the neighbour
  • For non-signature items, if the neighbour is at home and accepts the item the postman will deliver a notification card to the addressee. This will detail the address of the neighbour
  • For items requiring a signature, the signature of the neighbour will be taken.
  • If the neighbour is not at home or does not accept the item, the postman will return the item to the Delivery Office as usual
  • Royal Mail will accept no liability for loss, damage or delay to the item once it is no longer in their control, whether this is after delivery to the addressee or delivery to a neighbour

Consumer Focus has called on Royal Mail to consider a range of other options to offer greater choice and security than the delivery to neighbour proposal. These could include:

  • Expansion of Safeplace to non-business customers. Currently, this allows businesses to offer customers the option to designate an alternative delivery location including a near neighbour
  • Roll-out of the successfully trialled paid-for evening delivery service
  • The possibility of making deliveries to ByBox lockerbanks at mainline railway stations or other convenient locations
  • Increased use of post offices as alternative delivery points so that the post office network becomes an optional delivery point rather than a costly redelivery option

Omnibus research summary

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