Undelivered Christmas cards amid Royal Mail ‘counterfeit’ stamps row

Royal Mail's new stamps feature a barcode along the edge
Royal Mail's new stamps feature a barcode along the edge - Royal Mail

Sending a Christmas card through the post saw some recipients charged by Royal Mail as outdated and “counterfeit” stamps were used.

Several Telegraph readers have said they were made to pay to receive their greeting cards, some of which were undelivered because of insufficient postage.

The majority of stamps without barcodes have not been valid since July 31, following a six-month extension after the introduction of new digital stamps.

Writing in Friday’s letters page, Tim Horne said he was charged £2.50 to receive a Christmas card sent by a friend to his wife because the sender had used an old stamp. While Stephen Ennis said he had paid £5 for an undelivered item with insufficient postage, which turned out to be a Christmas card. He said that the stamp on the card did bear a barcode but that it had been labelled as a “counterfeit”, meaning that the charge was due.

But on contacting the sender, he discovered that the stamps had been purchased from a Post Office. Under close inspection, he said that the newer stamp had a slightly different barcode, which he thought could have been the cause of the problem.

Alan Green said he was also required to pay £5 when he received a card from an old friend that had a stamp marked as counterfeit.

Mr Green said: “I fail to see how any penalty can be more than the cost of another First Class stamp as I am not the culprit. The card was from an old friend who is now very concerned as he has sent a whole batch of cards to a large number of grieving widows with stamps from the same sheet.”

Retailers, including Amazon and the Co-op, were accused of continuing to sell the old stamps, which cannot be used on post in the UK. Older Christmas stamps, or other special stamps with pictures on, can still be used for posting items.

Lee Smith said he’d been given a pack of eight first-class stamps that were marked not to be used after December 2021 in a Co-op in Cardiff when he bought extras to send Christmas letters this year.

Stamps bearing the profile of the late Queen Elizabeth II that do not have barcodes appeared to be for sale online on sites including Amazon, the Telegraph found.

Customers with old stamps can still swap them for new barcoded stamps, by filling out a form and posting them to “Freepost Swap Out”.

But some stamp-users said they had struggled to have their old stamps replaced, despite buying them from Post Offices or other “trustworthy” retailers. George Icke said that he’d sent off his stamps to be replaced but had received a letter from Royal Mail telling him that he had been sold counterfeits. He said he had sent the stamps in the original Royal Mail booklet.

It comes after the cost of a book of first class stamps hit £10 for the first time in September. The price of a single first-class stamp rose to £1.25, amid “increasing cost pressures” and a “challenging economic environment”.

A Royal Mail spokesman told the Telegraph that it was “vital” that any cases where a person believes their stamps have been incorrectly flagged as counterfeit were investigated.

The spokesman said: “To do this, we require any customer who believes they have been incorrectly surcharged to send the envelope with the barcoded stamp attached to us, along with the exact location of where the stamp was purchased.”

The stamps are assessed three times by experts using specialist equipment, the spokesman added.

They said: “We are confident our processes are robust. We will always happily review individual cases and if an error has been made then we will of course correct it.”

A Post Office spokesman said: “Stamps are available to buy from a number of different sources. Post Office Ltd receives its stamps directly from Royal Mail’s secure printers. Customers who buy stamps at Post Offices are given an itemised receipt, and this is required to investigate any allegations of fake stamps.”

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