Hospice reveals Freepost woes

The Royal Mail's claim that it is willing to refund charities that have been double-charged on letters marked 'Freepost' has been challenged by a south Derbyshire hospice.

Holland: says St Giles is still charged for all its Freepost mail - stamped or not
Holland: says St Giles is still charged for all its Freepost mail - stamped or not

Third Sector reported last week that the Royal Mail's automated system for sorting Freepost envelopes cannot tell whether the donor has attached a stamp to save the charity a Freepost charge (Third Sector, 11 June). The Royal Mail said it would refund charities in cases where both the donor and the charity had ended up paying for the postage.

But south Derbyshire-based St Giles Hospice said that it was compensated by Royal Mail in July last year, but was told it would be a one-off payment and there would be no future refunds.

St Giles said it continued to be double-charged for 50 per cent of its Freepost mail, which amounts to about 34,000 letters a year. It has estimated that double payment has cost it up to £1,000.

Alison Holland, finance officer at the hospice, said: "We have continued to monitor the levels of Freepost mail and continue to be charged for all of it. More than half of it is also stamped by our supporters."

In response to the continuing problem, St Giles, which is based in Walton-upon-Trent, has amended its reply envelopes. A message on the flap now says that if donors do put a stamp on the envelope, they should cross out the word 'Freepost'.

"This approach appears to work, and we would encourage other charities to do the same," Holland said.

The Research Institute for the Care of Older People has also added this line to its Freepost envelopes.

A Royal Mail spokesman, who declined to comment on the St Giles case, said: "If any charities have been double-charged, they should let us know and we will refund the difference."

Brendan Delaney, charity manager at Scope, which gets about 20,000 letters a year by Freepost, said it lacked the resources to monitor whether it was being double-charged through the Freepost system.

"We need to invest time in looking into it because we have a historical record of the invoices - it's worth large charities looking at their invoices," Delaney said. "The Royal Mail might owe charities quite a big figure."

- See Editorial, page 12


- The Royal Mail said last week it would refund charities that had been double-charged on Freepost letters

- St Giles Hospice received compensation last year, but was told there would be no future refunds

- St Giles now asks donors to cross out 'Freepost' if they use a stamp

- Scope says it lacks the resources to establish if it has been double-charged.

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