Universal Service Obligation

Ofcom is the postal services regulator. It is responsible for safeguarding the one price goes anywhere, affordable postal service to all UK addresses.

This includes ensuring that an efficient provider of the Universal Service can make a reasonable commercial rate of return on its Universal Service activities.

Reforms introduced in 2011 and 2012 ensure that Royal Mail is the designated provider of the Universal Service until at least 2021 (10 years from the passing of the Postal Services Act 2011).

Minimum Universal Service requirements

The Postal Services Act 2011 sets out the minimum requirements the Universal Service provider must deliver. These are statutory. They can only be altered with the consent of the UK Parliament. The minimum requirements are:

  • At least one delivery of letters every Monday to Saturday to every address in the UK
  • At least one collection of letters every Monday to Saturday from every access point in the UK that is used to receive letters and postal packets for onward transmission
  • Postal services at an affordable, uniform tariff across the UK
  • A registered items service at an affordable public tariff
  • An insured items service at an affordable public tariff
  • A free-of-charge postal service to blind or partially sighted people
  • Free carriage of legislative petitions and addresses
  • Postal Packets ≤20kg

Exceptions

In rare circumstances, Ofcom may grant exceptions to the minimum Universal Service requirements. These include remote or inaccessible addresses, or addresses that present a temporary safety risk for Royal Mail employees (for instance, due to an uncontrolled dangerous dog on the premises). A full list of exceptions to the Universal Service can be found here.