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'Ghost from past' could return to haunt Highlands is delivery charge issue not resolved

By Hector MacKenzie

Jamie Stone MP:
Jamie Stone MP:

AN Easter Ross MP says only "cast-iron rules" will prevent businesses slapping additional delivery charges that unfairly hit local people in the pocket.

Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, spoke after a Westminster debate on how additional delivery charges affecting rural areas.

Despite claims of nationwide flat fees for delivery, businesses can apply delivery surcharges for remote and rural areas – or refuse delivery altogether.

Mr Stone recognised initiatives taken by Consumeradvice.Scot and Highland Council trading standards in encouraging people to report and complain – but is calling for much firmer statutory rules to ensure business compliance with advertised delivery charges.

Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Kelly Tolhurst, said: "This is not a quick fix issue and I am unconvinced at the moment for the need of further legislation, but it does not mean it’s being ignored and I look forward to hearing of further progress and the Scottish Government’s own initiative.”

Mr Stone said: “If you want to enable people to live and prosper in the Highlands, you have to ensure that the economic climate in which they live is on the same level playing field as other parts of the UK. What we know about delivery charges means that this is not at all the case.”

“We’ll have to put in place a framework of legislation with real teeth to ensure that fair and equal delivery charges apply the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

"I’m glad that for once we have a Minister who understands that there is a problem. However, I believe that the solution would involve some cast-iron rules that say a firm ‘no’ to the type of selling that leaves my constituents paying an unfair, extra price for delivery.

"In my speech I said that while I wouldn’t want to exaggerate my language, the fact is that if the overall cost of living in the remote Highlands becomes to great for people to bear, and this results in them deciding to go South and away, then this would be incredibly sad. Indeed, it would be an old ghost from the past come back to haunt.”

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