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Christmas rush: are you paying over the odds for your stamps?

21 Dec 2018, 11:51

Telegraph paywall article.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consu ... ds-stamps/

Christmas rush: are you paying over the odds for your stamps?
The Christmas period is the peak time for buying stamps as family and friends send each other festive wishes through the mail.

In an attempt to avoid lengthy seasonal queues at the local post office, I visited local corner shops in my area that sell postage stamps. I was surprised to find that all three charged me more than the face value – a practice that Royal Mail forbids.

The price of a first class stamp for a letter should be 67p and a second class stamp should cost 58p. But in all three shops I was overcharged by 5p to 10p.

A few pennies here and there might not seem like much – but being charged 75p for a red stamp and 65p for a blue represents a mark-up of 12pc. I wouldn't stand for that with any other purchase.

Though Royal Mail does not allow stamps to be sold above face value, there is a loophole that allows retailers to get away with this. It's only illegal if the stamps have been purchased directly from Royal Mail and sold on. If the stamps are bought from elsewhere, there's no problem.

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “Any retailer who buys their stamps from us for resale must, under our terms and conditions, sell them at face value or lower.

“However, if a retailer has acquired stamps from somewhere else, we cannot bind them to this condition. Royal Mail recommends that customers always buy their stamps from reputable Royal Mail approved outlets.

"If in doubt, stamps are available in post offices throughout the UK and online at royalmail.com. Customers should always report any suspicious stamps to Royal Mail Customer Services for us to investigate.”

A stamp that says 1st class or 2nd class on it rather than a price it stays valid whatever the current postage cost is
The rising cost of postage has fuelled a rise in online companies that sell discounted stamps. Some of these source stamps from auctions and collectors. JC Stamps, established in 1987, that don't show a monetary value and don’t have an expiry date.

However, some customers have encountered problems with this trick, such as non-delivery, difficulties getting refunds and being supplied with stamps that have been used but not franked.

The use of uncancelled stamps is illegal. However, many sellers avoid prosecution by including disclaimers stating that stamps are for collectors only.

Royal Mail also has an ongoing battle against fake stamps, which experts believe largely come from China and Turkey. They are typically missing security measures such as the phosphor bands printed on real stamps. Some do not carry date and source codes within the ­background lettering.

Letters with fake stamps will not be delivered, and ­recipients are required to pay £1.50 per item to collect them.

Stamps are also widely sold on Amazon with a giddying range of prices – from the discounted, which may cause problems if they are used and unfranked, to the vastly inflated. If it helps them avoid queueing at the post office, many people seem to be happy to pay 80p or so for a 58p stamp.

But that pales in comparison to eBay. It has stamps at greatly varying prices, and you can buy a single second class stamp for £1.99 (postage and packaging included). That’s an eye-watering 244pc more than if you’d walked into your local post office to buy it.

Tips on buying stamps
Always ask how much a stamp is before buying from a small, independent shop. If the cost is higher than the normal rate, ask them to reduce the price. You could point out that stamps supplied by the Royal Mail cannot be sold at a higher price.
If you can’t get to a post office, high street chains such as WH Smith and major supermarkets sell at the correct price.
If a stamp says 1st class or 2nd class rather than a price it stays valid, whatever the current postage cost is.
Wholesale retailers can be a source of new, unused stamps at a discount price. Costco, for example, currently offers 180 first class stamps for £113.99 (around 63p each), including postage and packaging. However an annual Costco membership is required, starting at £15.

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