Home » Transit time, postage, branches: What will change for you at the post office in the future

Transit time, postage, branches: What will change for you at the post office in the future

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Transit time, postage, branches: What will change for you at the post office in the future

picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

How long letters have to travel and how often they are delivered to you is stipulated in a law. The federal government now wants to change that.

The government gave the green light to a raft of changes this week. This could become effective in the spring if the Bundestag and Bundesrat have approved the change in the law.

For consumers, this means that the waiting time for letters will probably be longer.

The federal government wants to fundamentally reform the postal law for the first time in a quarter of a century. The cabinet accepted a proposal from the Federal Ministry of Economics on Wednesday. An overview of the most important questions and answers about the reform.

Why the postal reform?

When the Postal Act, which is still largely valid today, came into force in 1998, the Internet only played a minor role and orders from online retailers were an exotic thing. However, writing letters for communication was still common. This seems like ancient times: today, emails and chats dominate written communication. Letters have gone out of fashion and packages have become commonplace. The legislature therefore wants to adapt the regulations for the postal industry to the changed reality.

Why does the postal law even exist?

The Federal Post Office was privatized in the 90s. The postal law should ensure competition, but at the same time guarantee the population’s basic supply of postal services. As a “universal service provider”, Deutsche Post has to comply with very strict regulations. In return she gets tax breaks. The competition has worked rather poorly: the yellow giant has a market share of 85 percent in the mail segment and more than 40 percent in the parcel segment. The letter competitors include Arriva and Citipost, the parcel competitors DPD, Hermes, GLS, UPS and the delivery service from Amazon, the latter is number 2 in Germany behind Post/DHL.

What should be changed in the law?

In the future, the post office should have less time pressure when sending letters. This allows it to reduce costs by, for example, avoiding night flights to transport letters. So far, the post office has to deliver 80 percent of the letters posted today on the next working day, and on the next working day the quota must be 95 percent. According to the Federal Ministry of Economics’s proposal, in the future there should only be a minimum value of 95 percent for the third working day after being put in the mailbox. On the fourth working day, 99 percent of the letters should reach the addressee. The letters should therefore be transported more slowly, but arrive reliably.

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How else could consumers notice the consequences of the reform?

The group has almost 13,000 post offices nationwide, most of which are post office counters at retailers. In some outskirts of town and larger villages, however, there are no post offices to be found, although the post office should have branches there – this is what a government regulation stipulates. The gaps in the branch network are sometimes because the last supermarket or kiosk there has closed and the post office cannot find another partner. ATMs could provide a solution, but are not yet recognized in the branch network requirement. This is set to change in the future, even if only in individual cases with the approval of the Federal Network Agency.

Will postage become more expensive again?

Yes, the postage will most likely be more expensive. However, this will not be regulated in the legal reform, but in a separate official procedure next year. The previously valid postage – 85 cents for a standard letter and 70 cents for a postcard – expires at the end of 2024. The Federal Network Agency will grant the post office a price increase corridor, which the company will use. The amended law is intended to prevent the price from rising too much: a standard letter should not be more expensive than one euro.

What is controversial about the reform?

The use of subcontractors in the parcel industry always causes dissatisfaction. Customs reports cases of undeclared work and illegal employment, and the Verdi union is calling for a ban on subcontractors. The Federal Ministry of Economics’s proposal doesn’t go that far, but the rules should be tightened. In the future, clients should be obliged to check their subcontractors according to defined criteria.

This is not enough for the Greens and Social Democrats; they are calling for a ban on passing on orders to sub-subcontractors or sub-subcontractors. But the FDP doesn’t think much of this – from their point of view, there are black sheep among the subcontractors who need to be punished, but overall it is a functioning and proven system. The situation among parcel companies is different: market leader DHL hardly relies on subcontractors, while its competitors rely heavily.

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What else causes criticism?

As a universal service provider, the post office should be granted sales tax exemption for its corporate customer mail. This would put small, regionally active mail competitors under pressure as they would then have a price disadvantage. They now fear for their existence. The already weak competition in the mail market could come to a standstill.

How should working conditions be improved?

Hauling packages is done on the back, and delivery people sometimes have to carry heavy gardening and sports equipment and even dumbbells to the upper floors of apartment buildings. In the future, heavy packages weighing 10 kilos or more should be marked so that the parcel carrier knows and doesn’t make a mistake. From 20 kilos onwards, two-person transport or technical aids should be mandatory.

The Verdi union, however, demands that such heavy packages only be allowed to be transported by two people. The SPD member of the Bundestag Sebastian Roloff also sees it that way – it is “required for occupational health reasons,” he says. From the point of view of the liberal Reinhard Houben, electric hand trucks are sufficient: they are a significant relief for the delivery people, says the FDP member of the Bundestag.

What other problem is being addressed?

Since last year, the network agency has received an unusually large number of complaints about quality deficiencies in the postal industry. It’s about late, incorrectly delivered or lost shipments; in most cases the anger is directed at Deutsche Post/DHL. Network agency boss Klaus Müller keeps raising his index finger in warning – but he can’t do much more. That is set to change in the future: His authority should be able to impose hefty fines on the universal service provider Deutsche Post for the first time. However, compared to the ministry proposal, the legal text on the fine framework adopted by the cabinet was somewhat weakened.

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What happens next with the postal law reform?

The federal government’s stance on postal reform has now been determined. It will then be the Bundestag and Bundesrat’s turn; the reform could be completed in spring 2024.

dpa/lp

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