An Oireachtas committee was warned last month that another increase in the price of the stamp would create difficulties for many older people and could lead to a drop in the volume of mail.
New legislation will lift the price cap on the cost of stamps and some media reports have indicated this could mean an increase from 72 cent to between 90 cent and a euro. If approved, it would be the third increase in two years.
“I can tell you with absolute certainty that an increase of that magnitude, 25 per cent at the lower end, will certainly be noticed by someone whose sole income is the State Pension,” Age Action’s Justin Moran told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
“It will mean older people making a conscious decision to send fewer letters with a corresponding knock-on effect for postal volumes, which are already in decline.”
The committee also discussed recommendations to strengthen the post office network, including new post office payment accounts, which are due to be introduced shortly.
The network currently has 1,135 post offices and serves around 1.7 million customers every week but more than 200 post offices have closed since 2007 and the network is coming under increasing pressure. Around a third of the remaining post offices may not be sustainable without urgent action.
The popularity of email means fewer letters are being sent and while many pensioners collect their payment in the post office every Friday most new pensioners are choosing to have the money paid into their bank account.
“The report recognises that the post office is an ‘essential service for facilitating communication and interaction in local communities’,” said Mr Moran.
“It is especially important for older people who use the post office to collect pensions, access cash, pay their utility bills, save money, buy stamps and, perhaps most importantly, meet their friends.
“We need to expand the services that post offices provide but we also need to remind people that if they don’t use their local post office, they could lose it.”