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‘Royal Mail took eight years to deliver my son’s birthday card – then fined me for using an old stamp’

Royal Mail
Alfie (left) received his first birthday card shortly before he turned 10 years old - John Lawrence

Richard Wilson immediately recognised his sister’s handwriting on the envelope addressed to his son, Alfie.

The transport modeller from Berkshire, Reading, was curious to know why Alfie’s aunt would be writing to her nephew, so much so that he paid Royal Mail a £2.50 fee to receive the card as the first-class stamp was apparently “no longer valid for postage”, according to a yellow sticker fixed to the envelope.

Opening the card this week he read the message: “To Alfie, lots of love on your first birthday. From Auntie Sally and Uncle Pat.”

The card was finished with a kiss, but as touching as it was, there was something slightly off about its timing. For one, Alfie’s birthday had come and gone six months prior in October. For another, he was now nine.

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As it turns out, Royal Mail had failed to deliver the birthday card for eight and a half years.

It was unsurprising that the stamp was invalid, as it was attached to the letter in 2015 and thus did not have the bar code that was introduced in 2022 and became a legal requirement last year.

“My first thought was that my sister had made a mistake, as Alfie is nearly 10 now,” said Mr Wilson, 57. “When we realised it had been sent nearly nine years ago she said ‘I bet you thought I hadn’t bothered’.”

Alfie Card
The first-class stamp was apparently 'no longer valid for postage', according to a yellow sticker fixed to the envelope - John Lawrence

It comes as the postal service is faced with a takeover bid, which has boosted its share price amid hopes new management can turn around a decline in its performance.

Royal Mail is supposed to deliver 93pc of its first-class post within one day of collection, and 98.5pc of second-class post within three working days, under targets set by the regulator, Ofcom.

But in November last year, it was found to have breached this requirement – and was fined £5.6m. Telegraph readers complained after Christmas cards turned up several months late in February earlier this year.

Alongside delays it has been forced to contend with strike action and fulfilling its universal service obligations which require it to deliver post on Saturdays.

In the face of continuing financial pressures, in April the service raised the cost of a first-class stamp for the second time in six months – using the price by 10p to £1.35. Royal Mail said the price increases were necessary amid plummeting enthusiasm for sending letters.

Letter volumes have fallen by more than 10 billion in the last two decades – from 20 billion in 2004 to seven billion in 2023.

More recently Royal Mail has become embroiled in a row after a Telegraph investigation revealed that China had flooded Britain with counterfeit stamps, landing victims with £5 penalties.

Senior MPs have since called on the postal service to stop the “unfair fines” while it investigates issues with new barcoded stamps, amid concerns its machines are incorrectly flagging genuine stamps as counterfeit.

Thinking the £2.50 fee he had just paid was a tad unfair, Mr Wilson complained to Royal Mail on X, formerly Twitter. The company responded within half an hour, Mr Wilson said, apologising and offering compensation.

Mr Wilson was refunded £10.80 and was sent a book of eight first-class stamps. Royal Mail also sent his son Alfie a £10 cheque “to buy himself something”, as a gesture of goodwill.

The service said it “could not speculate” on why the letter remained undelivered for nearly a decade.

“At the end of the day, it was only £2.50, so I wasn’t that fussed. But it shows it pays to bring these things up,” Mr Wilson said.

He added: “I just find it amusing, to be honest. To think it could have been lying on the floor all these years and has only just found its way back into the system.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We deliver billions of letters successfully every year. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the customer did not receive this high standard of service. We have discussed it with them and rectified the situation.

“We cannot speculate on where the card was before it was delivered.”