Royal Mail has apologised to customers after they were left scratching their heads over how long they have to use up their old stamps before they are no longer valid.
In February last year, Royal Mail announced it was phasing out everyday - or Definitive - stamps that feature a profile of the Queen's head from January 31, in favour of barcoded versions. But it later extended the deadline for a further six months, saying it recognised that users needed more time to adjust to the change.
However adverts are still appearing on social media advising customers to use up their old stamps by January 31 are causing widespread confusion. An advert on Twitter last week read: After January 31, ‘everyday’ stamps without a barcode will no longer be valid. So, if you can find your old ones, this is your last chance to use them."
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And it was forced to clarify the situation after many Tweets from customers wondering when the deadline actually was. Royal Mail said that the new July 31 deadline is not an extension but a six-month "grace period" where non-barcoded stamps will continue to be accepted.
@j9mickey said: "I am really confused by a promoted tweet from you, as I had read the deadline for the unbarcoded stamps had been extended. Please advise," while @JohnMamakj asked: "The Post Office told me this had been extended to July. So who is correct?"
@FlintyRich said: "I thought that the deadline to use non-barcoded stamps had been extended to 31/07/2023, but the Royal Mail website still shows a deadline of 31/01/2023.Could you please provide clarification?"
Royal Mail responded: "I'm sorry for the confusion. To clear this up, our Swap Out Scheme is available up until 31/01/23, however we have a grace period were any non-barcoded stamps used after this date up until 31/07/23, will not be surcharged. I hope this helps!"
The barcoded stamps are on sale now, but Royal Mail is urging people to check they haven't got any old stamps lying about that will need to be used. If you don't think you will use your stamps in time, Royal Mail is operating a 'Swap Out' scheme to let you exchange these stamps for free.
There is currently no deadline for the Swap Out scheme and Royal Mail has now linked up with the Post Office to allow customers to pick up a Swap Out form and freepost envelope at Post Office branches. Simply fill in the form and put into the envelope with any remaining non-barcoded stamps and hand over for posting in a Post Office branch.
Alternatively, can to complete a standard 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth up to £200, or a Bulk Stamp 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth more than £200. Both forms are available on the Royal Mail website where they can be printed and filled out. If you don't have a printer, you can fill in this form here or call customer services on 03457 740740. If you have collected the form or had it sent to you, it will come with a freepost envelope for you to send the form off with the stamps for free, and for those who have printed the form themselves, you’ll need to send the envelope to "Freepost Swap Out" - no other address details are needed.
Royal Mail is advising those sending bulk forms to send via special delivery and the additional cost of doing this will be refunded by Royal Mail in the form of barcoded stamps worth the same amount. You should get your new stamps within seven working days.
Matthew Parkes, Managing Director Stamps and Collectibles, said: “Royal Mail is transitioning to digital, barcoded stamps in order to provide new and innovative future services for our customers. In order to give our customers even more time to use up any remaining non-barcoded stamps, we have decided to introduce a six-month grace period starting from the original deadline of January 31 2023 where non-barcoded definitive stamps will still be delivered as normal."
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