Royal Mail switch to barcoded stamps will waste £40m of old ones

Royal Mail’s switch to barcoded stamps will leave customers with £40 million worth of unusable old ones – enough to cover THREE football pitches

  • From the end of January 2023 only the new barcoded stamps will be valid
  • There are fears customers will not be able to use up their old stamps in time
  • Typically around £160million worth of unused stamps are lying around at a time 

The Royal Mail’s chaotic switch to barcoded stamps will leave customers with £40 million worth of unusable old ones, enough to cover three football pitches.

From the end of January, only new stamps that feature a barcode will be valid. 

There are fears that customers will not have been able to use up their old stamps in time, and there is confusion over the complicated procedure to swap them for the new ones.

The Mail on Sunday, backed by MPs, watchdogs and customers, is calling for the ban on old stamps to be delayed – ideally by a year. The process for switching old stamps for the new ones, using a Royal Mail ‘swap out’ form, must also be simplified.

Analysis of Royal Mail accounts suggests that, typically, about £160 million worth of unused stamps are lying in drawers and wallets at any time. 

The Royal Mail’s chaotic switch to barcoded stamps will leave customers with £40 million worth of unusable old ones, enough to cover three football pitches

Britons buy up stamps in advance in books or sheets of up to 60, then use them over the coming months. An industry source said: ‘This stockpile gets used up and replaced throughout the year. But it’s a gradual process.

‘Also, while Royal Mail and post offices began selling barcode stamps in February, other sellers such as supermarkets and newsagents were unable to sell them until October. So as recently as last month, Britons will have been buying old stamps that will no longer work in a few months.’

The source said that even with a surge at Christmas, about £40 million worth of stamps could be left unused by the end of January. That is about 50 to 60 million stamps – enough to cover three football pitches.

Andrew Jackson, who runs Tagula stamps, said: ‘I have heard from good sources, shortly after Royal Mail announced this change, that their “bright ideas department” had underestimated the volume involved.

‘They should have let customers use the old stamps with no deadline. It is a simple idea but one that removes all this uncertainty and worry.’

From the end of January, only new stamps that feature a barcode will be valid

A Royal Mail spokesman said it was unable to provide a figure on how many non-barcode stamps will be in circulation by the January deadline.

He added: ‘There is no end date as to when customers should swap their non-barcoded stamps by. Customers will still be able to access the “swap out” option after January 31.’

The ban does not include special pictorial stamps, such as Christmas ones.

If you’ve been affected by the stamp swap madness, email [email protected]

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