| 10.4°C Dublin

An Post plans to stick us with 20pc hike in stamp price

THE cost of sending a letter will soar by up to 20pc after Christmas.

An Post wants to increase the price of a standard stamp from 55c to 65c, which a spokesperson said was necessary to meet a funding shortfall for providing a universal postage service.

It is expected to send a final application to hike the price of a stamp to telecommunications watchdog ComReg within the next few days.

ComReg will then make a decision early in the new year, but a price increase is expected.

Although ComReg chairman Alex Chisholm did not say whether he would approve the increase, he hinted at a rise during a Dail committee briefing.

Mr Chisholm said there had not been any increase in the cost of a standard stamp in five years and that Irish postage prices were competitive compared with the rest of Europe.

The price of 55c to send a standard letter within the country is marginally lower than the European average of 56c.

In the UK, a second-class stamp costs £0.50 (€0.63) and a first-class one promising next-day delivery costs £0.60 (€0.75).

In France, Italy and Greece, a postage stamp costs 60c, rising to €1.07 in Denmark, but in Spain and many eastern European countries stamps are well under €0.50, a 'Letter Prices in Europe 2012' report shows.

However, An Post said many of those lower prices were for delivery within three or four days, and, in real terms, Irish prices were among the lowest in Europe. A public consultation will be held before any decision is made.

ComReg, meanwhile, faced severe criticism at yesterday's committee meeting over its decision to impose a €12m fine on loss-making An Post and to take it to the Supreme Court over local delivery issues.

It was "immoral" to be doing this and incurring high legal costs at a time when the country was bankrupt, the meeting was told. An Post has lodged a High Court challenge against this fine.

Committee chairman Tom Hayes said members "widely criticised the lack of clarity from ComReg representatives on the rationale for the scale of the fine".

TDs also questioned the high costs involved in ComReg taking a case to the Supreme Court to challenge a recent High Court ruling on local delivery issues.

Mr Chisholm said he could not discuss these cases as they were sub-judice.

Irish Independent