Daily Mail

Stop charging innocent victims of fake stamps farce, Royal Mail is told

- By Toby Walne

Money Mail today demands that Royal Mail stops fining thousands of innocent people with a £5 penalty for receiving mail with a counterfei­t stamp.

We call on the postal service to suspend all penalties to customers who are sent stamps with fake barcodes – while it launches a full investigat­ion into the millions of fake stamps it claims are flooding the market from China each week.

our call for a full inquiry is being backed by Liberal Democrats, who want the ‘ridiculous’ fines to be halted ‘until ministers have got to the bottom of this’.

Meanwhile, former Post office minister Paul Scully has also called for an investigat­ion to stamp out the fakes.

Mr Scully, the Conservati­ve MP for Sutton and Cheam, said: ‘It does not seem fair that the end user or recipient should be penalised for using a stamp that they had no idea was a counterfei­t. What we need right now is an investigat­ion into where these stamps are actually coming from – where the stamps were purchased.

‘Customers can help Royal Mail by sharing these details.’

Sarah olney, Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park, said: ‘It is ridiculous to be penalising innocent people caught up in this mess.

‘ Ministers need to launch an investigat­ion, including questionin­g the Chinese embassy.’ We’ve been contacted by hundreds of people who are furious that they have had to pay penalties on cards and mail, with many of them reporting that the fine of £5 is worth more than the mail itself.

They are outraged that they not only bought stamps from what they believed to be a legitimate source, but that they are also accused of buying knock- off versions online. Royal Mail says it believes the forgeries are being sold online or unwittingl­y by small shops – some could even be sharing the premises with a post office counter. Under legislatio­n introduced in 1989, shops are no longer required to buy their stamps directly from Royal Mail and can instead buy them from wholesaler­s or online.

It is understood that convincing copies sold for as little as 4p each are being purchased by smaller retailers. Spotting a fake stamp is not easy – but if it appears particular­ly shiny, this may indicate that it was printed on different paper used by a forger.

‘Security ovals’ might not be included on a fake stamp, or else they might be put in the wrong place.

Fakes stamps can also sometimes have fainter or inconsiste­nt colours compared to those used on real stamps.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘The combinatio­n of new barcoded stamps with added security features, the surcharge, and Royal Mail actively working with law enforcemen­t authoritie­s has led to a 90pc reduction in counterfei­ts.

‘We recommend that customers only purchase stamps from post offices and other reputable high street retailers.

‘We advise not to buy stamps online unless from the official Royal Mail shop.’

What are your rights if you receive mail with a counterfei­t stamp and Royal Mail demands that you pay the fine? The Mail’s consumer lawyer Dean Dunham says the Royal Mail is entitled to levy these penalties.

However, the recipient of letters or post has no obligation to pay such a penalty unless they want to receive the mail.

All is not lost, as the Consumer Rights Act provides that traders must only sell goods – in this case stamps – that they have ‘the right to sell’, and that this will form a term in every consumer contract.

Here, the Post office has sold fake stamps to customers, albeit unknowingl­y. It obviously had no legal right to do this, and this amounts to a breach of contract.

This means that if you buy fake stamps from a post office or any other trader, then you will be entitled to a full refund.

you will also be entitled to the reimbursem­ent of any associated losses that you have incurred, such as paying Royal Mail penalties.

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