Stamp prices could rise by 50%
The price of second class stamps will increase by 50% if plans by Royal Mail get the go-ahead.
It wants the cost of the stamps to rise from the current 36p to at least 50p.
Regulator Ofcom has been carrying out a consultation aimed at giving greater commercial freedom to Royal Mail, including handing the firm the power to set the price of first class stamps.
It is proposing a cap on second class stamps of between 45p and 55p, but Royal Mail has confirmed it wants them to be at the upper end of the scale.
Ofcom said its proposals, announced in October, were aimed at protecting the universal service obligation (USO) under which the Royal Mail has to deliver to any address in the UK for the same price, six days a week.
It has been under pressure in recent years because of falling mail volumes, which has seen the number of letters delivered every day slump by 22 million to 62 million between 2006 and 2010, contributing towards a loss of £120 million last year.
Consumers have also switched from first to second class mail - now posted in equal numbers - while stamp prices have lagged behind inflation for almost 20 years.
The price of a first class stamp in the UK is among the lowest in Europe at 46p, compared with 69p in Italy, 67p in Denmark and 60p in Greece, while service targets are among the highest, Ofcom pointed out.
A spokesman for Royal Mail said: "Royal Mail is awaiting the outcome of Ofcom's consultation on its proposals for future regulation of UK postal services before announcing stamp prices for 2012. No final decisions have been made on stamp prices. We will of course inform customers of any changes to stamp prices as soon as we are able to."
Any changes are expected to take effect from April.