The extra cost of delivery charges in Scotland relative to the rest of the UK has risen to £43.1 million this year with the north and north-east bearing the brunt.
Claims that consumers are being ripped off by the surcharges were made after independent analysis conducted by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) showed the figure has risen by more than £6.8 million since 2017.
The figures, published just before the Christmas rush, have been put down to the growth of online shopping during the coronavirus crisis.
Over the last few years Spice has estimated the additional cost to Scotland of parcel delivery surcharges relative to the rest of the UK.
In 2017 Spice estimated an extra cost of £36.3m for Scotland, a total that rose to £38m in December 2018 and £40m by November last year.
The latest calculation found the figure now stands at £43.1m, an increase of 19% since 2017.
Scottish consumers in rural areas – who are often more dependent on online shopping than those who live on the mainland – should not have to live with these eye-watering surcharges. Having to pay extra delivery charges will really hit the pockets of working families this festive season.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead
When the figures were broken down by Scottish Parliament constituency, it was found that Inverness and Nairn was the worst affected with £7.8m, 18% of total cost to Scotland.
It was followed by other rural areas with Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in second place with a total of £6.7 million, 16% of total cost to Scotland.
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross was third with £5.2 million, the equivalent of 12% of the total Scottish cost.
Overall, the Highlands and Islands accounted for £30.16 of the total with Argyll and Bute coming to £3.34m, Moray £2.99m, the Western Isles £1.63m, Shetland £1.3m and the Orkneys £1.09.
The total for north-east constituencies came to £7.18m with Aberdeenshire East accounting for £2.63m, Banffshire and Buchan Coast £2.18m and Aberdeenshire West £2.34m.
The Spice analysis said: The growth in online shopping spurred by the pandemic, particularly in the lead-up to the festive period, is likely to further exacerbate the parcel delivery disadvantage faced by many Scottish consumers.
“Recent research shows more consumers are planning on doing their Christmas gift shopping online due to shop closures and Covid-19-related anxieties around going in-store.”
SNP Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who has campaigned against punitive delivery charges, said: “It is hugely frustrating to see that shoppers in Scotland have been forced to fork out an additional £43.1 million on parcel delivery surcharges this year simply because of where they live.
“Despite widespread support for the Fair Delivery Charges campaign, charges continue to rise year on year. Since I started this campaign, the cost of these surcharges has increased by an eyewatering £6.8m.
“The campaign is making a positive difference but given that online shopping is on the rise, particularly this year due to the Covid-19 restrictions, so is the postcode penalty paid by households and businesses in Scotland.
“Scottish consumers in rural areas – who are often more dependent on online shopping than those who live on the mainland – should not have to live with these eye-watering surcharges. Having to pay extra delivery charges will really hit the pockets of working families this festive season.
“We know times are tough for businesses at the moment, but consumers should not be bearing the brunt of these challenges. I would urge all delivery companies to level the playing field for everyone and stop adding on these ridiculous surcharges.”
Mr Lochhead added: “Enough is enough – the Tories at Westminster can’t sit on their hands any longer. It’s time for the UK Government, to introduce meaningful legislation that will put a stop to these unfair surcharges once and for all.”
The UK Government has been approached for comment.