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NetDespatch users to be forcibly migrated to Royal Mail

By Chris Dawson April 16, 2019 - 9:00 am

Royal Mail are writing to NetDespatch users stating that their access to Royal Mail services via NetDespatch will cease from the 31st of May 2019. From this point onwards users will either have to use Click & Drop, Pro Shipping or API Shipping (although we’re yet to hear of successful API integrations by small retailers).

Smart, Simple and Future Proofed

“As well as being smart and simple our Royal Mail managed solutions are future proofed – meaning they will constantly update and improve to meet the growing needs of your business.”
– Royal Mail

NetDespatch is Smart, Simple and Future Proofed

Royal Mail have said that their new solutions are smart and simple but it’s hard to see how they can be quite as smart and simple as NetDespatch. NetDespatch quickly became a favoured tool by Tamebay readers and marketplace sellers because it worked and there was nothing for a merchant to do.

The big selling point of NetDespatch is that one phone call or email was all it took to get started and then NetDespatch would undertake any integrations and set up work for the merchant and they didn’t charge for it. NetDespatch also didn’t charge for producing labels, the carriers NetDespatch partner with pay the costs and merchants access postage and courier services at exactly the same price they have always paid but with a smart simple integration that was done for them.

Once you were integrated with NetDespatch you never had to worry about future proofing as they handled all updates on your behalf.

I thought Royal Mail loved NetDespatch?

What’s surprising is that Royal Mail loved the NetDespatch service so much that in 2015 they acquired the company.

“The acquisition of NetDespatch supports our strategy of providing our customers with leading edge e-commerce software. It allows customers with complex IT estates to integrate with us quickly and with the minimum of effort, allowing them to improve the service they offer to shoppers. We are confident that this acquisition will support the continued growth of our parcels business with new and innovative software solutions as the needs of our customers evolve.”
– Nick Landon, then Managing Director of Royal Mail Parcels on the NetDespatch acquisition in 2015

Royal Mail don’t appear to be giving customers a choice of continuing to use NetDespatch, their mandate is pretty clear that service will be cut off on the 31st of May (or sooner as soon as a new integration is in place). This isn’t the first time Royal Mail have tried to force merchants and third party suppliers to integrate directly with them – in 2016 they tried to impose a chargeable relationship with businesses who were offering smart and simple ways to print labels.

Royal Mail migration from NetDespatch Time Line

The time line for Royal Mail to forcibly migrate merchants from NetDespatch is, if you are a customer you will receive a letter, since the 4th of April 2019 you can register for migration at royalmail.com/migrate, once migrated Royal Mail will instantly cut off your service with NetDespatch so there’s no back up or roll back in case of problems and if you do nothing then they’ll cut your NetDespatch service off regardless on the 31st of May.

What next for NetDespatch?

Removing all of Royal Mail customers from the NetDespatch service is a very strange move. It will doubtless leave NetDespatch unable to meet their targets as Royal Mail must be a pretty large part of their business but more bizarrely it will leave a Royal Mail owned company supplying services to other couriers but not to Royal Mail themselves.

For a Royal Mail owned company to be in the business of enabling shipping label printing for competing businesses but unable to assist merchants with printing Royal Mail labels just doesn’t appear to make sense.

Is Royal Mail in crisis?

There are wider more far reaching questions to be answered about Royal Mail.

Royal Mail have missed their mandated Quality of Service requirement, set by the regulator for 1st Class Mail, for the past six consecutive quarters and that is unprecedented. It’s almost as if since Rico Back took over as CEO that no one cares about letters and that part of the business is being purposefully allowed to continue to slide.

Forcing merchants to move from an efficient smart and simple solution that works and is maintained assiduously by NetDespatch also doesn’t make sense…

…Unless there are more sinister plans afoot such as separating letters and other loss making business activities from the parcels business and Royal Mail need everything they want to keep wrapped up in one neat package for a possible split, management buyout, or simply chucking the letters business back to being a public sector service as an unaffordable nicety whilst keeping hold of the more profitable parcel business.

  • 4 months ago

    If anyone needs an alternative to NetDespatch, ChannelGrabber’s solution went live today.. 😉

  • Toby
    4 months ago

    There is one thing that stands out in this…. money.
    Royal mail had a great chance to adapt when privatised. freed from the ball and chain of under investment and out of date ways. Instead we have seen it stumble from post to post, unsure where it is going and not fast enough to keep up with global changes.
    Some will scream to bring it back under public control, but then it will be just a bad if not worse, I can’t see the gov throwing money at it and getting it right.
    So right now I think they plan to split the low profit public letters and parcels side from the more lucratic business parcels side. This is where the growth is, but alos where you need to be lean and fast. Something it can’t be while trying to do a one size fits all approach.

    • Dave
      4 months ago

      The problem with that is Royal Mail is a VAT-exempt service as a direct consequence of being the UK’s only universal postal service. If it tries to dump the less profitable wings, the remaining business would have to face a 20% jump in prices to the end-consumer!

    • 4 months ago

      @Dave Royal Mail are not completely VAT exempt as they charge VAT on our contract.

  • Tommy
    4 months ago

    Still the best and cheapest courier in the country and probably the cheapest letter delivery service in Europe

    • Jim
      4 months ago

      Certainly not the cheapest
      And their recent quality of service figures are not the best

  • 4 months ago

    I worked for royal mail for 20 years great business which was super efficient when I started. Then the people managers left or retired and then the number crunchers took over. First class letters left in sorting frames is the norm know.

  • 4 months ago

    This seems a very odd move for them to make, as Chris said “bizarrely it will leave a Royal Mail owned company supplying services to other couriers but not to Royal Mail themselves”, so maybe the plan is to sell off NetDespatch?

    They would save on the payments they have to make by moving customers to C&D but then that lowers the value of the business. They also risk customers staying with NetDespatch but moving all their business to another courier.

    I have never used NetDespatch as we use only use Royal Mail and signed up to Click & Drop, which works very well. I recall standing outside their offices in Newbury and searching Google to see what they did.

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