Royal Mail cyber attack: International parcels still can't be sent via Post Office counters

Royal Mail asked customers to refrain from posting items to overseas destinations in the immediate aftermath of a ransomware attack in January. Credit: AP

Words by multimedia producer Suzanne Elliott

Royal Mail is continuing to struggle with the aftermath of a cyber attack in January that severely disrupted international deliveries and left a huge backlog that has meant weeks-long delays for some customers.

People still cannot send a parcel overseas via the Post Office counter and instead must purchase postage on the Royal Mail website, print a label online before dropping it off or arrange to have the parcel collected.

Royal Mail asked customers to refrain from posting items to overseas destinations in the immediate aftermath of the ransomware attack on January 10.

The attack, a Russian-linked ransomware gang called Lockbit has claimed responsibility for, was believed to have already left more than half a million letters and parcels stuck in limbo at the time it happened.

Royal Mail began working on the backlog of export parcels following the cyber incident on January 18 in "limited volumes".

Services remain affected nearly a month later.

In response to frustrated customers on Twitter, the Post Office's account said: "We can't offer postage for international Parcels currently but Royal Mail are fixing the issues they are facing for this as quickly as possible.

"For now though you can still purchase postage through their website to drop off at a branch."

Royal Mail has been unable to confirm when a full service will be resolved and delivery services would run as normal but says teams are "working around the clock".

Royal Mail said: "We are currently asking customers not to send any international mail items that require a customs declaration via the Post Office counter. We are working around the clock to open this channel to all services. 

"In the meantime, customers are able to buy all of their international services online, and can choose to either drop parcels off at a Post Office or have them collected at home." 

And if I were to post a parcel overseas, when could I expect it to arrive?

Royal Mail says it is making progress on the backlog, but people are reporting delays - with some saying their parcels destined for overseas are still in the UK a month after posting them.

Small businesses, in particular, say they are being hit by the delays.

Royal Mail said: "Our initial focus has been on despatching the export parcels which were in our network before the cyber incident.

"We are now exporting the vast majority of mail items to all international destinations, and we are handling close to normal volumes with some delays." 

In a service update on Tuesday, Royal Mail said: "International services have been reinstated to all destinations for purchase online and through our shipping solutions with the exception of a small number of International Untracked services for Business Contract customers where alternative services are available.  

"Delivery of International items may take slightly longer than usual. Customers using International Tracked / International Tracked and Signed services may notice different tracking information as items leave the UK.

"We are seeing some delays to some Tracking events in a small number of destinations. As we continue to work with our partners to resolve this, if you cannot see tracking information for your items then it is likely to be available on the overseas’ Posts own tracking websites."

It added: "We would like to apologise to impacted customers for the disruption this incident is causing."

Royal has been hit by disruption in recent months, with postal workers staging walkouts in December in a long-running dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.

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