Mandatory delivery charge recommended on online retail sales

The Government’s scientific advisers to the Department for Transport have recommended a ‘plastic bag tax’ style charge on all consumer deliveries from online retail sales.

The move comes in response to a trend of consumer ‘over ordering’ prompted by significantly relaxed returns policies and policies such as free next-day delivery.

According to The Times, the result has been a significant uptick in the number of delivery vans on the road, something that further contributes to the pollution problem the Government is likewise tasked with solving.

Ministers have reportedly been told that a mandatory charge might reduce the impact of the fashion industry in particular, where shoppers are known to order various sizes and items to try on at home, prior to sending unwanted items back. In tandem, this reduces footfall on high streets.

Tweeting out the story yesterday, Scott Dougal of British Cycling’s Head of Communications suggested the move should be considered in tandem with incentives to stimulate use of sustainable transport forms as delivery vehicles; a model that has exploded with businesses like PedalMe.

The Department for Transport is said to be mulling over the recommendation ahead of potentially opening up a public consultation. It is not yet clear whether the proposal would apply to only certain sized businesses, though Amazon is name checked in The Times piece.

Data from the Department of Transport suggests that emissions from vans has leapt 43% between 2007 and 2017. Those specialising in online retail have tended to accelerate policies such as free returns and free next day deliveries more in recent years in a bid to compete in a crowded space online.