In the debate about the reform of the postal law, federal politicians called for new rules to bring about a reduction in letter postage. “If the postal service is granted relief as part of this reform and mailing takes longer, then this must be reflected in the price for consumers: the postage for a standard letter should be cheaper or at least stay the same for a very long time,” says the economic policy spokesman for the FDP -Bundestag faction, Reinhard Houben. Politicians from the SPD and the CSU argue similarly.
Less time pressure planned for mail delivery
The Federal Ministry of Economics recently published a key issues paper, according to which the obligation to deliver letters as quickly as possible should be relaxed or even abolished. The paper is a basis for discussion of the forthcoming reform of the postal law, which was last fundamentally changed in 1999. So far, Swiss Post has had to deliver 80 percent of letters on the next working day. From the Ministry’s point of view, however, such a requirement is no longer up-to-date because the issue of sending letters is no longer about speed, but only about reliability.
The CSU member of the Bundestag, Hansjörg Durz, sees a change in the time limit as a “good signal for climate protection”. He is referring to the planes that are still on the move in Germany for the post and transporting letters. Swiss Post could do without these planes if it had less time pressure for the shipments.
Review: “Less performance for the same price”
Should the 80 percent obligation be dropped, the average waiting time for letters would be longer. Many consumers should see this as a disadvantage. For the Bonn group, on the other hand, that would be good news: it could reduce costs. But this concession to the post office shouldn’t be given just like that, believes the Christian Socialist Durz. “If you reduce the quality, you also have to ensure that the price goes down. Because less service for the same price: That would be a whopping postage increase through the back door.”
Part of the reform debate is also the question of whether there should be a kind of two-class mail in the future – i.e. fast, more expensive letters and slower, cheaper letters. How exactly such a system could look like is still unclear. Sandra Detzer, member of the Greens in the Bundestag, says: “We believe that postage can be scaled down depending on the delivery period as part of the considerations.”
The SPD member of the Bundestag Sebastian Roloff considers a reform of the so-called running times to be “conceivable in principle”. The various models will be discussed “without prior commitments,” he says, adding that slower letters should “logically also be cheaper.”
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Letter postage now generally increases every three years. In 2019, the cost of sending a standard letter within Germany rose by 10 cents to 80 cents, and in 2022 postage increased by 5 cents to 85 cents. The current postage will expire at the beginning of 2025, according to the applicable rules, prices will probably continue to rise.
Post: German postage low in comparison
With price increases of this kind, Swiss Post must be guided by a framework that the Federal Network Agency has set for it. The company argues that the last price increase was based on low inflation. This no longer corresponds to reality. Compared to other countries, the German postage is low, despite higher wages and stricter quality standards, it is 32 percent below the average postage in the EU, according to the company
If the considerations in the key issues paper were to be adopted in the legislative process, Swiss Post would still have a certain amount of time pressure in the future – but this would be much less than before. Currently, 95 percent of the letters have to be there the day after next. According to the key issues paper, such a requirement should be tightened, so the percentage could be increased. However, it is possible that such a specification then no longer refers to the day after next, but to the following day – i.e. to the third day after the letter was posted.
Higher wages – unattractive mail business
Industry experts are skeptical about the demands from politics. “If the postage were to drop, the post office would get less money and it would be questionable whether the company could ensure the quality of delivery in the long term,” says logistics professor Kai-Oliver Schocke from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. With regard to the current collective bargaining dispute at the post office, he adds that the company’s domestic personnel costs are likely to rise significantly. “If the German mail business is made unattractive by the reform, Swiss Post could lose interest in the domestic market and instead focus on the very profitable international business.” Then there would be a threat of job cuts in Germany.
In the future, letters could be on the road longer without Swiss Post violating its obligations. However, if the minimum level is “seriously, repeatedly and persistently” undershot, fines are threatened by the Federal Network Agency – at least that is what the key issues paper proposes. The federal politicians from the SPD, Union and FDP see corresponding sanction options as positive. The Federal Ministry of Economics wants to present a first draft law by the summer, and the reform of the postal law should then be decided by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
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