MPs on two parliamentary select committees have written to Sports Direct chief executive Mike Ashley, querying claims that the retailer is underpaying its couriers.
The work and pensions and business select committees are investigating a whistleblower’s claim that Sports Direct and delivery company Hermes have been manipulating rates for deliveries.
The committees have been told that by mislabelling some heavy packages as “packets”, couriers have been underpaid on some deliveries. Examples of these “packets” include an item weighing more than 10kg and a bicycle.
Both committees wrote in the letter to Ashley, which was also sent to Hermes chief executive Carole Woodhead: “Sports Direct has been reported to us as the most persistent company for this [practice], who almost always send parcels through as “packets”, saving both them and Hermes on courier pay.
“Given that a not ins¡gnificant number of couriers struggle to earn even the national living wage, this latest development is hugely troubling to us.”
Rachel Reeves, who chairs the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, said: “On the face of it, this appears to be a stitch-up between Hermes and Sports Direct to short change low-paid couriers in order to boost company profits.
Frank Field, chairman of the work and pensions committee, added: “We look forward to a speedy response and if there is merit in these claims, an immediate change in working practices and proper compensation for workers who have been subjected to this.”
Sports Direct did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for Hermes categorically denied the allegations and said Hermes is happy to answer any questions raised.
She said: “On the rare occasion of an individual label being incorrect, couriers can immediately call our dedicated courier support team, to notify us and change their payment with no questions asked. This applies to all our clients and ensures that both Hermes and our couriers receive the correct payment. We have no issues with Sports Direct who remain a valued customer.
“This year we have invested heavily in pay increases for our couriers, who now get paid a minimum of £8.50 per hour and an average of £11 per hour after expenses.”