The Post Office has been accused of ‘hijacking’ the online presence of its partnered stores by changing opening hours and replacing photos, store descriptions and phone numbers with its corporate messaging.

Dozens of stores took to social media to complain that their Google profiles had been altered without their permission after the Post Office took ownership of the pages.

Vince Malone of Tenby Stores and Post Office said: “They changed our phone number, our photos, our store description and even our store location. We recently moved premises and a customer warned us that our online profile was listing our old address. It was only then that we realised what had happened.”

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Another store owner who asked not to be named said: “By redirecting to their website and their phone number they are taking sales that would otherwise take place at the counter like travel money and insurance. They are cutting out the postmaster.”

The NFSP described the Post Office’s actions as “totally unacceptable”. A statement from the trade group representing post office retailers said it had raised the issue with the government and with the Post Office.

Describing the attempts by the Post Office to improve the online presence of its network, the NFSP said: “Post Office have missed an opportunity to engage constructively with its network and work in partnership with subpostmasters.

“It is extremely disappointing that they have behaved in this way – and, if such activities continue, it does not bode well for PO’s objective to ‘reset the relationship’ with subpostmasters.”

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Malone agreed, stating that while building online listings for those post offices without an online presence would be beneficial, they should have done so in collaboration and permission of the shop owners. “They’ve used a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he said.

Other services supplied in post offices were also accused of attempting to interfere with online listings. The NFSP explained: “Royal Mail’s website is describing individual post offices as ‘our office’ and encouraging people to purchase postage via an app on the same page.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “Ensuring our customers have accurate details for their branch’s opening hours is always important, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

“As a temporary measure, Post Office listings on unregistered Google My Business pages were updated so that opening hours accurately reflected what postmasters told us their Post Office would be operating during the pandemic.

“We are apologising to those postmasters that were affected and reiterating that help and support to maintain their pages so that customers always have the most up-to-date information on their branch is available.”

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