Liberalization of postal services

Following the various phases of gradual liberalization of the sector, postal services became subject to Directive 2008/06/EC of 20 February. This Directive stipulates full market liberalisation no later than 31 December 2010, with the possibility of eleven Member States (Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) of delaying full liberalization of the market for a maximum of a further two years, and the inclusion of a temporary reciprocity clause applying to Member States which make use of this transition period. These eleven Member States confirmed their intention to use this derogation.

The same Directive maintains the scope of the US and continues to require that Member States ensure a high quality US, including at least one delivery and one collection each working day of the week for all EU citizens.

Consumer protection was also strengthened, including through the application of minimum principles concerning complaint procedures to be followed by all postal operators and not just US providers and the possibility of Member States ensuring conditions of transparent and non discriminatory access to infrastructure and services, such as post office boxes, the postcode system and services providing redirection and return to sender.

The obligation to guarantee affordable prices for services that are part of the US is maintained, as is the possibility of Member States imposing a uniform tariff for certain types of items, such as mail sent by individuals, whereas the imposition of a uniform tariff is now dependent on the public interest.

The new Directive also sets out that the guarantee of US shall be provided through the ex-ante designation of one or more providers of US, for the entire (or part of) the national territory and for its various components.

Where it is necessary to cover a share of the net costs of providing the US, Member States will have to choose from a range of options including, for example, state aid, public procurement, a compensation fund with contributions from the various market participants, with each Member State deciding which model best fits their requirements.

The new Directive also presents a description providing an indication of the methodology to be used for assessing the net cost of the US, taking both the costs and the direct and indirect benefits, including tangible and intangible benefits, of its provision into consideration.

It will also be necessary to adapt the national legislative framework to the new Directive by 31 December 2010, with ICP-ANACOM due to begin this task in 2009.