IN WHAT SHOULD be seen as a victory for community journalism national store Halfords has caved in over a policy that imposed a standard £50 charge on shipping even the cheapest of items to Moray.
Readers of insideMoray were in uproar when two weeks ago we reported that Moray customers using the Halfords website were being charged £50 shipping for each item purchased on their website.
The charge was being applied where the item being purchased was actually being sold on behalf of ‘partner’ companies – but the customer had no real indication until checkout who they were purchasing from.
A week after we reported the concerns of Moray’s MP Angus Robertson and MSP Richard Lochhead, Mr Lochhead brought the matter up at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood – sparking national coverage of the story.
Now Halfords have said that their standard £2.99 delivery charge will apply to ALL items purchased on their website no matter where the customer lives.
Halfords Chief Executive Jill McDonald said in response to a letter from Mr Lochhead: “I agree that this flat rate charge that has been in place for the remaining 5% of orders is simply not good enough.
“That is why we took action to resolve this issue as a priority. We have been working with our Marketplace suppliers to help reach a fair resolution for our customers and we have agreed to reduce these postage costs to a standard £2.99 – Halfords will subsidise the difference whenever the carriage cost is more.”
The change was welcomed by Mr Lochhead who said: “Excessive delivery charges are a massive frustration for people in Moray and across Scotland.
“Halfords decision to now apply the same charge across the board is to be welcomed and I want to see other companies following this example. There are many delivery options available to companies, including Royal Mail – and there is simply no excuse for companies to discriminate against consumers in Scotland.”
Mr Robertson added: “Halfords decision to quickly review and change their delivery charges policy so that a flat rate now applies regardless of where the customer lives is a very welcome change of heart.
“This action by Halfords demonstrates how important it is to challenge companies large and small on their delivery policies to areas like Moray and the Highlands.
“In my letter to Halfords Chief Executive I put across the real frustration and anger felt by people living in Moray and elsewhere in Scotland over excessive delivery charges, an issue that is not going away and I am fully prepared to name and shame as many companies as it takes to sort this issue.
“If more companies respond in the positive way that Halfords has then that will be a step forward.”
Call for others selling online to follow
Both politicians have now called on other companies to follow the lead set by Halfords and address delivery charging policies that see areas such as Moray being wrongly discriminated against.
Mr Lochhead said that until companies stop treating rural communities in Scotland with contempt over delivery charges then he will continue to follow a “hard line in naming and shaming them”.
That was agreed by Mr Robertson who said: “The SNP are determined to end the practice of excessive delivery charges and we will keep up the pressure on the UK Government who have the power over the industry regulation on delivery charges.
“I am also renewing my call to the public in Moray for examples of bad practice and I will continue to hold companies to account. I will continue to name and shame companies applying excessive charges and by doing so we can get more positive results like the response from Halfords.”
As a community-led news publication insideMoray has been fighting this particular corner for over three years – today we are delighted that, finally, we can report a success.
Halfords reacted immediately to our story, promising action and prompting a second item on insideMoray 24 hours after the first.
When Mr Robertson and Mr Lochhead first revealed a constituent faced this ridiculous delivery charge, no other media outlet appeared particularly interested in reporting the matter – until a week later, when the issue was taken to the Scottish Parliament.
Then, local and national newspapers picked up the mantle – and if that was the thing that finally convinced Halfords to do the right thing then fine, we don’t much care here how it is done – just that justice for online shoppers in Moray is served.
In this case, it has been. Let’s just hope it is only the start.