Royal Mail introduced the barcoded stamps last year to improve security and efficiency as part of the company’s modernisation drive. As a result, stamps featuring the late Queen’s profile that don’t have barcodes are now invalid.
But this isn’t the only change Royal Mail has made this year. The price of a first-class stamp has risen to £1.25 from £1.10, which is the third increase in the space of 18 months.
This change has been made as a result of increasing cost pressures and the tough economic environment, Royal Mail has said.
It added that prices had to rise due to the lack of reform of the Universal Service Obligation (USO), which requires the company to deliver letters to all 32 million UK addresses six days a week.
Charity Citizens’ Advice said that Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, should hold the firm accountable over “rocketing prices” while households struggle with the rising cost of living. But Ofcom says prices need to be kept “flexible” to ensure the postal service remains viable.
Matthew Upton, policy director at Citizens’ Advice, said Ofcom was “letting the company get away” with price rises despite its “poor service”.
“Royal Mail holds a virtual monopoly on an essential public service that millions of people rely on but, despite missed delivery targets across the country this summer, Royal Mail has still chosen to hike prices,” he said.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ofcom caps the price of a second-class stamp, to make sure an affordable option is always available, especially to support people on lower incomes.
“However, the postal market is rapidly evolving, as people send fewer letters and receive more parcels. So Royal Mail needs flexibility when setting first-class stamp prices, to make sure the universal postal service can continue.”
Find out below which stamps are affected.
Which stamps are no longer valid?
Old stamps without a barcode can no longer be used.
Royal Mail said on its website: “Regular stamps without a barcode are no longer valid for postage. This follows the introduction of a six-month grace period from the initial 31 January deadline. Swap them for the new barcoded ones.”
The service has also said: “The new postage stamps with barcodes will enable exciting new services by connecting physical stamps to the digital world through the Royal Mail app.”
It added: “The 2D barcodes on our postage stamps can be scanned via the Royal Mail app to access digital messaging or information. They also make it easier to track and trace your items from point of postage to their final destination.
“In the future, we will use these new stamps with individually unique barcodes to send digital information and improve and innovate better security and operational services for our customers.”
How do you swap out non-barcoded stamps?
The Royal Mail has a swap-out scheme to help people switch to barcoded stamps, which can be accessed on the Royal Mail website. Simply complete the Stamp Swap Out form if you have up to £200 worth of stamps to swap, or the Bulk Stamps Swap Out Form for more that £200 worth of stamps.
Be aware that stamps cannot be swapped at post offices.
Royal Mail has not yet set a deadline for the swap-out scheme so, if you find you still have old stamps after the postage deadline, you can still swap them.