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Royal Mail investigating barcode stamps after customers hit with fines

Previously traditional stamps were delivered to a sorting office where they were stamped with ink to show they had been used. However the Post Office claims fraudsters were able to wash away the postmark ink and resale used stamps.

David Gold, the head of public affairs and policy at Royal Mail, said at the time “the improvements in efficiency and security” would benefit all customers. 

However, since 2022, 700 managers have been fired and last year the company made a loss of £419m, a fall largely blamed on the decline in letter sending. Around 19 million letters are sent each day. 

Barcoded stamps became mandatory from July 31 last year and it wasn’t long before numerous customers began complaining about being accused of having used counterfeit stamps.

It came to a head last December when a barrage of complaints emerged as people’s Christmas cards were either left undelivered or could only be collected if the recipient paid a £5 fine.

Alan Green, of Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire, was forced to pay £5 after receiving a Christmas card with a “perfectly normal-looking first-class stamp”.

The £5 bill was four times the cost of a first class stamp at the time.

Mr Hollinrake vowed to “get to the bottom of what has happened” last week when approached by The Telegraph and on Tuesday he welcomed the steps taken by Royal Mail.

He said: “I very much welcome the decision, it’s something I wanted to see and I’m pleased it’s happening.”

The minister refused to answer whether Royal Mail will also scrutinise its scanning technology used to read the barcodes – which some fear is the cause of the problem.

Robert Kennedy, an IT engineer from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, said he purchased a book of stamps in December last year from his local Post Office but only two of them were flagged as being counterfeit and the rest were not reported as being fraudulent. 

He said he had such little faith in the postal service, he refused to raise a complaint. “I didn’t register a complaint because it’s such a joke. My biggest bugbear is that we trust this organisation. If they can’t get the verification of their own product right, which they produce, then how are they ever going to substantiate my claim?”

“It’s just a joke of a set up,” he added.

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