Advice on Royal Mail P.O Boxes

A P.O Box operated by Royal Mail is a great way to have post delivered to your door without having to advertise your street address, and it's a great way to present your address to your customers.

One of our team had call to complain to Royal Mail about a business redirection service, and found the process extremely frustrating. As a result, we've put together a guide on how to deal with problems with a Royal Mail P.O Box service.


How does a P.O Box work?

Postbox ClipartAnyone can purchase a P.O Box address, either for business or personal use. You give out the address, and people can send letters or parcels to that address. There are two options for P.O Box addresses:

  • Have mail held at your local Sorting Office / Delivery Office, or
  • Have mail forwarded on to your permanent address

At the time of writing, a P.O Box costs £95 a year (for collection) or £126 a year (redirect to your door)

You can find out more, or apply for a P.O Box on the Royal Mail P.O Box site


Problems with a Royal Mail P.O Box?

We had a problem in 2010/2011, which we'll outline in a moment.

If you're having a problem with a P.O Box you hold, you'll also probably want to contact Royal Mail. First, phone the Royal Mail Customer Service Centre, on 08457 950 950 (At the automated prompts, we selected Option 1 "Business Customer", then Option 4 "Report a Problem".

When you call, make sure you get an incident number, such as 1-1234567890.


Our PO Box Problem

One of our team discovered, by accident, that his PO Box number had been ceased. He'd moved 10 months ago, and notified Royal Mail of the new delivery address. Royal Mail confirmed the change of address in writing.

It seems the message didn't make it from the Royal Mail PO Box Team (now in Plymouth), to the local delivery office. As a result, all mail to the PO Box number in question was being marked "Gone Away".

Royal Mail Gone Away Sticker

Dealing with the Complaint

Complaining to (and about) Royal Mail is a complex task. Our contributor Pete spent nearly six months trying to get a refund. Customer Services were both unhelpful and arrogant, and a complaint to the Postal Redress Service (think Ombudsman) made Royal Mail take the complaint a little more seriously.

The Customer Services Team, despite admitting the fault was on their side, originally refused to take any responsibility, but after being pressed, agreed "as a gesture of goodwill" to refund six months of the 10 months service he wasn't getting. He rejected this offer, instead try to get the full refund.


Royal Mail Complaint Letters
Just some of the early correspondence with Royal Mail

Escalating the Complaint

After he was unable to resolve the matter with Royal Mail, Pete escalated the complaints to the Royal Mail Postal Review Panel, an impartial complaints service at Royal Mail.

The Postal Review Panel failed to respond to the complaint within their published timeframe, which meant the complaint to be escalated formally with the Postal Redress Service.

The Postal Redress Service (POSTRS) are an ombudsman-like service, and offer a Dispute Resolution Service. In our case, they agreed that Royal Mail failed to address our complain appropriately on a number of occasions and directed Royal Mail to provide an apology and compensation. The Postal Redress Service was unable to help with a refund, as the P.O Box service apparently does not "fall within the scope of the POSTRS scheme".

In the end, the only way to get a full refund (as advised by Royal Mail itself!) was to take Royal Mail to court. He did this, through small claims, and Royal Mail was quick to settle out-of-court and provide the refund, costs and compensation.

For more, information on how to complain to / about Royal Mail, see our page of information: How to make a formal complaint to the Royal Mail


The Problem with P.O Boxes

Handling of this problem with our P.O Box could have been much better. Here are our notes on how they could have done a better job with our mail...

Returning a paid-up customer's mail as "gone away" looks bad... and in this case, was unnecessary. Here's what could have been done:

  • The P.O Box team should confirm receipt of any change of instructions sent to a Delivery Office
  • When the Delivery Office noticed a problem, they should have contacted the P.O Box team to confirm there'd been no changes
  • If there's a problem at the delivery address, post could have been held for collection at the Delivery Office, which is, after all, part of a PO Box service anyway!
  • Royal Mail could have contacted the P.O Box holder before closing the box (after all, they have the old and new address postal address on file). In our case, mail redirection from the old address was in place, so any letter about the P.O Box service would have got through.


Got a problem with your P.O Box?

Other Links


Bookmark this page:   delicious | digg Digg | stumble StumbleUpon | technorati Technorati | facebook Facebook