Royal Mail waives £5 charge for fake stamps

A fake stamp next to a real one
A counterfeit stamp (right) looks very close to the real thing (left). [BBC]

The Royal Mail is pausing the £5 penalty it was charging to anyone receiving a letter with a fake stamp.

After a surge in fakes in circulation earlier this year, many people said they had not known they were purchasing counterfeits.

The postage firm said it would re-impose the charge after it has introduced an online scanner, currently in development, which will allow customers to determine if a stamp is genuine.

Some small retailers have also purchased fraudulent stamps and resold them.

The Royal Mail said that it had seized 1.5 million fake stamps.

With the help of law enforcement agencies, it has also taken down thousands of online listings selling counterfeit stamps.

The moves came after a surge in complaints about fake stamps, and after an investigation by The Telegraph that found four Chinese companies had offered to print up to one million counterfeit stamps a week, with each stamp being sold for as little as 4p each before being sent to the UK.

Royal Mail said it conducts test purchases in hotspot areas where customers have reported suspected sales of counterfeit stamps.

On Monday, Royal Mail said that as part of its efforts to reduce the number of counterfeit stamps it was adding a new independent expert to its "highly trained team of specialists" that investigates customer complaints over stamps' authenticity.

Royal Mail will also be seeking partnerships with retailers and online marketplaces to collaborate in tackling the problem and raise awareness.

There will be a focus on trying to charge the sender, who is responsible for acquiring the fraudulent stamp, rather than the recipient.

Stickers will be applied to items to advise the recipient that the stamp used has been scanned and found to be a counterfeit.

Despite the recent spate of counterfeits, chief commercial officer of Royal Mail, Nick Landon, said that since February 2022 - when barcoded stamps were introduced - there had been a massive reduction in counterfeiting.

“The combination of new barcoded stamps with added security features and Royal Mail actively working with retailers, online marketplaces and law enforcement authorities, has led to a 90% reduction in counterfeit stamps," he said.

Royal Mail has asked customers to look out for stamps with an unusually shiny surface, unusual colouration or inaccurate perforations - although many counterfeits can still avoid those telltale signs.

It advised customers to buy stamps only from big reputable sellers and to avoid buying stamps from online retailers, unless it is from the official Royal Mail website.

It also advised victims of stamp fraud to complete the online form on its site or to call its customer service team on 03457 740 740.