BIS publishes statement of principles for parcel deliveries

28 October, 2014
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has now published a statement of principles for parcel deliveries. The statement of principles sets out voluntary best practice principles as to how retailers can ensure their delivery services meet the needs of their customers. The principles are also accompanied by a list of illustrative examples to assist in understanding how the principles could be applied to delivery practices.


There are six principles in total and they are primarily intended to deal with many of the problems experienced by people living in rural, remote or island communities (for example, where surcharges are added to delivery in remote areas or where delivery is not made to certain locations and so on).


The first two principles make it clear that online retailers must not discriminate against consumers on the basis of their location. The first principle states that geographic surcharges should only be applied when these costs are justified by objective criteria, such as “actual and unavoidable costs incurred because of the distance”. It is clear that retailers should avoid charging a price for delivery that is disproportionate to the actual cost of delivery.


The second principle states that online retailers must provide the “widest possible delivery coverage” and should only refuse to deliver to a particular location when this can be justified by objective criteria. The illustrative examples suggest using a combination of couriers to increase geographic coverage (subject to the terms of the contracts with couriers) or allowing consumers living in remote areas to choose between having an item delivered to their home for a proportionate fee or having it delivered somewhere less remote.


The third principle states that online retailers should ensure that consumers can easily access delivery policy information at the earliest possible stage in the online buying process. In addition, this principle states that online retailers should also provide consumers with transparent information about delivery options before they complete their order. The illustrative examples suggest making headline delivery options visible and clear by providing an obvious “Delivery” button on the home page of the retailer’s website.


The fourth principle states that online retailers (working with carriers), should consider how delivery options and services could be used to increase the “success of first-time delivery”, and should endeavour to offer delivery options that are innovative and responsive to the changing market and the needs of consumers. Illustrative examples suggest allowing consumers a time slot for delivery or allowing consumers to provide additional information such as safe place information.


On a lighter note, a delivery driver recently adopted his own highly “innovative” approach to increasing “the success of first time delivery”. An online shopper was left completely dumbfounded when a parcel was left on the roof of his house. Helpfully, the driver left a note that read: “Today I called to deliver your parcel. Stuck on the roof – sorry”. However, the online shopper did manage to see the funny side and this story has since gone viral.


The fifth and sixth principles state that online retailers should provide customers with any other delivery information which they hold at the time any order is completed and/or dispatched (such as the name of the courier and tracking information) and that online retailers should include options to provide feedback on their delivery experience.


Whilst these principles are voluntary, they should be read alongside the legal obligations of the retailer. Online retailers should review these principles and the illustrative examples to check whether their current delivery practices comply.