Carriage charges are set to rise by an average of 2.7% by 1 April, angering the NFRN

Menzies Distribution has enraged the NFRN by increasing carriage charges just days after the federation published an independent retail report slamming what it saw as extortionate carriage charges.

Carriage charges are set to rise by an average of 2.7% by 1 April, while rates for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will increase by 1.5% and 1.9% respectively.

The NFRN heavily criticised the duopoly of Menzies Distribution and Smiths News for escalating carriage service charges and providing poor service in a report released on Tuesday.

It said its helpline NFRN Connect had seen a 27% rise in complaints to 6,588 over the past year regarding late, short or missing newspaper and magazine deliveries.

The NFRN added that the duopoly had resulted in “ever-increasing costs for decreasing supplies”, adding that retailers face poor standards of service and significant reductions in trading margins.

It also said that carriage charges are regularly increased by the two wholesalers, “often by ludicrous and unprecedented amounts”.

NFRN national president Linda Sood said: “On Tuesday 20 February our members made clear to MPs the financial burdens that ever-increasing carriage charges and employment costs were piling on to their businesses, putting jobs and even shops at risk. Today one of the only two main news wholesalers has confirmed it is to pile on yet more pressure, increasing its delivery charges by nearly 3%. This news is unwelcome and disheartening.

“Over that time members have had to contend with rising employment costs, too. Yet Menzies conveniently ignores the difficult trading conditions that many news retailers find themselves in. Enforced carriage charges deny retailers a large slice of the margin they should receive from selling newspapers and magazines. That’s why the NFRN wants the whole system reviewed.”

When asked to comment on the NFRN independent retail report, a Menzies spokeman said: “Menzies Distribution collects CSC (carriage service charge) to help us recover a proportion of the costs directly related to delivery - and collection - of newspapers and magazines to our customers.

“Although CSC tends to increase over time, the amount we collect still remains less than the total cost to our business of undertaking that work. We remain confident that our cost-per-parcel to deliver represents good value in comparison to the wider distribution market.

“We take complaints from our customers very seriously, and work hard both to resolve them and address their root causes. In the most recent press distribution review panel quarterly report, which analyses retailer complaints submitted via the official industry process, only 1% of complaints were levied against Menzies Distribution.”