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Royal Mail double-dip billing bug enrages stocking-filling biz

Not the best time for postage screw-ups, admit bosses

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Royal Mail apologised on Thursday for the resurgence of technical problems that have bedevilled the website over recent weeks.

The SmartStamp and Online Postage applications are both playing up at the worst possible time of year as business customers rush to get Christmas mail out the door. About 600 of the 30,000 SmartStamp and Online Postage customers were told transactions had failed when in fact they had gone through, resulting in double payments when they retried. Business customers were left an average of £50 out of pocket as a result.

Royal Mail promises to refund customers affected by the billing cock up as well as providing a £25 goodwill payment by way of an apology. Some customers have also paid for postage that has then not printed out. Others have not been able to see the result of a top up to their pre-pay account. Clients paying via PayPal for postage, however, have been unaffected.

The UK's postal service says other services on the Parcelforce Worldwide and Post Office’s websites are "largely unaffected by these difficulties".

Capgemini, which manages the Royal Mail website, is looking into the problems, the root cause of which remains unclear at the time of writing. It's unclear when the affected services will be restored to normal.

In a statement jointly issued by the chief execs of CapGemini and Royal Mail, both bosses apologised for the snafu.

"Royal Mail and Capgemini would like to sincerely apologise for the disruption at this key time of the year for our customers. We do really appreciate the level of inconvenience this is causing some of our SmartStamp and Online Postage customers," the statement said, in part.

"We will keep you updated about our progress as we strive to restore services to normal."

Reg readers tell of Royal Mail fail

The problem was first brought to our attention on Wednesday afternoon by a number of Reg readers hit by glitches.

"Royal Mail website is still broken and the Smartstamp system is now unable to add up," reader Steve told us. "It took £10.91 for a £1.86 stamp just now. Other are twittering that this has occurred to them - and if you ring the Smartstamp helpline you now just get a recorded message and get cut off."

"There is a few pissed off small businesses," he concluded.

Technical issues with the Royal Mail website first surfaced late last month when the whole website went awry on a Sunday, with problems in using the Smartstamp service for printing postage persisting well into Monday. Royal Mail's electronic redirection website wasn't finally restored until Thursday - after three full working days of problems.

Royal Mail eventually blamed problems migrating to a new website platform was last month's troubles. ®

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