BONN/BERLIN Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) presents the key points of the postal reform. This should strengthen the rights of consumers and ease the burden of Deutsche Post AG.
Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) wants to strengthen the rights of consumers and at the same time ease the burden on Deutsche Post AG by reforming the Postal Act. In the future, letters will ideally only be delivered on Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Monday delivery cancelled. This is the cornerstone for an overhauling of the Postal Act. The EU only stipulates that letters must be delivered five days per week. A postal spokesperson for the Monday delivery said that less than two per cent of the total letter volume is delivered at the beginning of the week.
The SPD coalition partner sees the reduction in delivery to five days as “very critical”. This still has to be discussed in parliament. Green member of parliament Katharina Dröge welcomed the minister’s intention to strengthen consumer rights. “However, Altmaier has only just increased postage and now also wants to limit postal delivery to five days. This does not strengthen the postal customers but makes the disastrous service situation even worse”. Since 1 July, a standard letter has cost 80 cents, ten cents more than before. Other types of mail have also become more expensive. The increase was controversial.
Altmaier is also planning more effective complaint procedures, for example if letters or parcels are not delivered. There should be more competition in the mail deivery market. The amendment is to take effect in autumn 2020. The Federal Network Agency is to be given more powers. Participation in arbitration procedures between deliverers and customers is to become binding for companies. This is aimed above all at Deutsche Post, which has so far not been involved in these proceedings. Fines are to be imposed in the future for breaches of quality standards.
The background to the planned reform is also the sharp rise in complaints about postal service providers. According to the Federal Network Agency, the number of complaints about late parcels, misdelivered letters and long waiting times at counters more than doubled to about 12,500 in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Consumers are to be given more rights if they have trouble with postal or parcel services – regardless of whether they are the sender or recipient of a mailing. It is conceivable, for example, that there are clear guidelines for delivery companies as to how and for how long they can be reached during the day and by when they must respond to complaints.
Altmaier also said the Ministry wanted to ensure that even in times of digitisation, a good postal service in cities and rural areas would continue to be guaranteed. The reform stipulates that in future, the postal service will have to report to the Federal Network Agency if it wants to close a branch or letterbox. The authority could then prohibit this for certain reasons.
The German postal service welcomed the key points in principle: it is “a good idea” to review the legal regulations more than 20 years after the gradual liberalisation of postal services, said the company spokesperson. Communication behaviour had changed as a result of electronic channels, and the volume of letters is shrinking by two to three per cent annually.
On the other hand, criticism of the plans came from left-wing member of parliament, Pascal Meiser: “To abolish the licensing obligation for mail service providers and replace it with a simple reporting obligation, as is already the case in the parcel industry today”, would further lower the quality standards for letter delivery.
“Consumers can benefit from a strengthening of the Federal Network Agency and competition on the postal market”, said FDP politician Reinhard Houben. “Clearly, Altmaier has been acting from a guilty conscience ever since he insisted on pushing through the inappropriate increase in postage.”
(Original text: Ulla Thiede and Birgit Marschall, translation John Chandler)