Compulsory online delivery ‘tax’ mooted by government

Published on: 1st July 2020

New fee being considered by Department for Transport (DfT) to combat congestion and emissions due to number of delivery vans.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirm an increase in online shopping during the coronavirus outbreak. Online sales jumped to 32.8% of all transactions in May, compared to just 18.9% in February, before the closure of non-essential retail in the UK.

As well as visits to physical stores having been restricted during lockdown, research has also shown that the number of free and next-day delivery promotions has encouraged shoppers to order even more online.

The majority of delivery vans are powered by diesel, which negatively impacts the environment. Although nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) have fallen by 74% between 1970 and 2018, according to recent data from the ONS, NOx emissions from vans have risen by 43% between 2007 and 2017. NOx can cause breathing difficulties and lead to conditions such as chronic lung disease.

Scientific advisors are calling for a mandatory charge to be applied to all online transactions, similar to the one levied on plastic bags, in the hope of encouraging more sustainable behaviour from consumers. The proposals will be opened up to public consultation before a final decision is made.

However, some experts believe that a levy on online shopping could be counterproductive. They have questioned whether it is necessary at all and believe it may even encourage shoppers to travel to stores instead, increasing car pollution. Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert at MoneyComms, commented: “It would be a controversial move and a hugely unpopular one with consumers. The worry is that such a surcharge could turn into a cash cow like the Insurance Premium Tax which the Government keeps increasing as a way of trying to balance its books.”


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