Independents fear a move by Smiths News to offer a fixed rate on carriage charges will only serve as a distraction from the case against “unjustifiably high” delivery charges.

In a letter to customers, the wholesaler outlined changes to its annual review into service charges, including a one-off offer to freeze their rates for a 24-month period.

This comes as an alternative to variable charges, which have increased by an average of 90p per week, per year, in the past five years.

But while the NFRN has welcomed the move, retailers told RN this week they were concerned it could stall the campaign for fairer charges.

Steve Archer, who owns three Premier stores in Staffordshire and Cheshire, said: “If you look at fuel prices, they are probably about 30% less than they were six months ago.

“Carriage charges are unjustifiably high, but because it is such a complicated matrix wholesalers use to work them out, retailers end up just putting up with it.”

AA figures for July show UK average prices for diesel were at their lowest for five years in 2015. Last month, the average price was 119.3p per litre compared to 136.1p in 2014 and 140.2p in 2013.

Carriage charges are unjustifiably high, but because it is such a complicated matrix wholesalers use to work them out, retailers end up just putting up with it

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “We have highlighted the recent reductions in fuel prices and pushed for these reductions to be passed onto independent retailers on a fair and equitable basis.”

Smiths News sales director Simon Gage said: “We have looked at how we charge for delivery, market volatility, the historical trend in increasing costs and ongoing uncertainty.

“We believe offering this opportunity to fix will see customers opt to stay at their current rate as it will safeguard their business against an increase for a further two years.”

Click here for more response from Smiths News.