Change of address. The Hidden Costs.


For many of those coming to our local Citizens Advice offices, the trigger for their problem is often the same. They have changed address and have not yet informed all the organisations which need to know this or put in place arrangements for mail to be forwarded to their new address.

The outcome may be a single annoying incident, or it may trigger a trail of events which those already in difficult situations can ill afford.

For example:

John’s* family had moved house, incurring all the additional expenses that moves require, but no arrangements had been made to have mail redirected and John had not yet informed his Credit Card company that he had moved. John’s monthly statement Credit Card statement went to his old address and in the hassles of moving, John forgot that he was due to pay this bill. When he was least able to afford it he was charged more.

Anna* had left home for the first time. Her mother had asked her about forwarding any post, but Anna had assured her that she contacted people by e-mail or text. There was unlikely to be any post, but if there was she would pick it up when she visited. Unknown to Anna, driving in an unfamiliar town, she picked up a fixed penalty notice for a motoring offence. She had not informed DVLA of her change of address, so the notification had gone to her parents’ address. Her mother thought she would be back soon, so did not send it on, but by the time Anna returned, it was too late to pay the reduced amount for early payment.

Dawn* was a single working mum who claimed tax credits. She had moved, but had not remembered that she should inform HMRC (who administer tax credits) of her change of address. When HMRC sent her the annual letter asking her to either confirm that her circumstances were the same or inform them of any changes, the letter went to Dawn’s old address and was not redirected as Dawn had only been able to afford to pay for Royal Mail re-direction for 3 months. As Dawn had not responded to HMRC, her tax credits were stopped.

*not their real names, these are representative examples – client confidentiality is never breached.

Citizens Advice – the national body – is the statutory consumer advocate for postal services.

Recent research by Citizens Advice found that:

  • Almost 1 in 5 people have problems with their mail when moving and this was higher among vulnerable groups.
  • Customers pay an up-front fee for mail redirection based on the length of time they want to use it (3, 6 or 12 months)
  • The charge for redirection is ‘per surname’, which penalises unmarried couples and spouses who keep their own names. This goes for children and elderly relatives with different surnames to the householder as well.
  • More than half (55%) of people who have moved house within the last 2 years live with at least 1 person who has a different surname to them

Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice said:

‘We’re calling on Royal Mail to change its mail redirection service to no longer charge by surname within the same household. As the dedicated universal service provider, it has a duty to make sure this service is fair and affordable’

After we highlighted this problem, Royal Mail has now publicly agreed to stop the practice of charging families with different surnames more for its mail redirection service.

Citizens Advice has welcomed this move from Royal Mail, but will continue to put pressure on them to fix this sooner rather than later. Its prices must be fair and affordable to everyone. Citizens Advice research shows that introducing concessionary prices and monthly payments would help.

Whether your difficulty stems from not receiving your mail or something else. If you are worried about a problem Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help.

For free, independent, confidential advice on a range of topics, from debt to immigration or housing and benefits to worries about how you are treated at work call 0344 848 7969, call in to our office at Village Way, Cranleigh on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10-00 and 16-00 or visit

Citizens Advice Waverley is a registered charity. You can help local people get the support they need by making a donation to Citizens Advice Waverley at

https://waverleycab,org,uk/fundraising Your donation stays local and will ensure we are here to help local people when they need it most.

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