The Post Office (PO) considered launching a new ‘family’ of self-service devices that could be deployed in ‘standalone’ non-PO locations, before abandoning the project.
Contract tenders advertised by PO, seen by betterRetailing last week, revealed the group’s plans in late 2019 to hire a tech specialist to design, produce and roll out up to 4,000 devices that would enable customers to complete mails, top-ups and bill payments transactions without visiting a PO branch counter.
“In particular, this is intended to ensure PO meets its ambition to remain number one in letters and parcels,” stated the tender brief.
The ‘family’ of devices would include ‘full service kiosks’ providing a wide range of basic post office services and other devices focused on areas such as parcel drop-off and returns.
The advert read: “All devices must have the potential to increase revenue by reducing queues, transaction times & cost to serve and to enhance the customer experience by improving access to particular products.”
While it said many of these would be made available to PO and its retailers on a purchase or lease basis, the document also included plans to deploy the devices “in new stand-alone non-PO locations”.
When asked to comment, PO said it has since abandoned the plans. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “The ‘self-service devices’ notice was an early market engagement exercise that started in 2019, then stopped and was not taken any further.
“Our mails and parcels business accounts for around 60% of postmasters’ remuneration and it’s right we consider how to make this part of our business even more efficient, drive increased footfall into branches and in turn generate more income for postmasters.”
Another tender to create “a panel of digital specialists” filed in June 2020 and valued at up to £75m is thought to relate to PO plans to take its scandal-hit Horizon till system into in-house control from Fujitsu, where a police investigation into potential perjury by Fujitsu staff members Gareth Jenkins and Anne Chambers related to the system is thought to be ongoing.
“We regularly review the contracts we have with our IT suppliers to ensure our systems remain fit for purpose,” said PO.
The Horizon scandal group litigation judge described evidence given by PO and Fujitsu in the criminal prosecution of subpostmasters for alleged instances of fraud as “known not to be the truth… at the time it was given.”
On 11 December, six former post office retailers prosecuted based on evidence given by these organisations had their criminal convictions overturned.