Assembleia da República (Assembly of the Republic)
(This is not an official translation of the law)
Establishes the general conditions to be respected for the establishment, management and operation of postal services in national territory, as well as international services originating or terminating in national territory.
Parliament hereby decrees that under the terms of paragraph c) of article 161 of the Constitution, the following stands as general law of the Republic:
Object, principles and definitions
Object and scope
The object of this law is to define the general conditions to be respected for the establishment, management and operation of postal services in national territory, as well as international services originating or terminating in national territory.
1 – This law and the statutory regime derived therefrom should ensure that the postal service needs of the population and public and private entities in various activity sectors are satisfied, through the creation of appropriate conditions for the development and diversity of services of this nature.
2 - Pursuit of the objective set out in the above section must comply with the following basic principles:
a) Guarantee the existence and availability of the provision of universal service, comprising a set of essential postal services permanently provided throughout national territory under appropriate quality conditions and at prices accessible to all users;
b) Guarantee the economic-financial viability of the provision of universal service through the reservation of an exclusive area, under the terms of article 11 and the creation of a compensation fund under the terms of article 9;
c) Guarantee that the providers of postal services have equal access to the market, with respect to the rules safeguarding competition;
d) Guarantee that users, in identical circumstances, receive equal treatment in the access and use of postal services.
1 – The operation of postal services shall respect, among others, the following fundamental conditions:
a) The inviolability and confidentiality of correspondence, subject to the restrictions and exceptions set by criminal law and other applicable legislation;
b) Security of the postal network;
c) Protection of data, subject to the limits and exceptions set by criminal law and other applicable legislation;
d) Confidentiality of transmitted or stored information;
e) Protection of private life;
f) Territorial planning and protection of the environment and heritage.
2 - The confidentiality of correspondence and data protection referred to in the section above consist of:
a) A prohibition on the reading of any correspondence, even when not enclosed in sealed envelopes, and on the mere opening of sealed correspondence;
b) A prohibition on revealing to third parties the content of any message or information which one may have duly or unduly become aware of, and on the revelation of relationships between senders and addressees and their addresses.
Definitions and classifications
1 - Postal service is understood to be the activity encompassing the operations of acceptance, processing, transport and distribution of postal items.
2 – Regarding the above sections, postal item is understood to be an addressed object in definitive form, which complies with the physical and technical specifications that allow it to be handled by the postal network, namely:
a) Correspondence - written communication on a physical support of any type, to be transported and delivered to the address indicated on the object itself or on its envelope, including direct mail;
b) Books, catalogues, newspapers and other periodicals;
c) Postal parcels - small volumes containing merchandise or objects, with or without commercial value, whose weight does not exceed 20 kg.
3 - Definitions:
a) Registered items – postal items with fixed monetary guarantee for damages against risks of loss, theft, robbery or deterioration and for which, at sender’s request, proof of deposit or of delivery is given to the addressee;
b) Insured items - postal items with fixed monetary guarantee for damages of the content, up to the value declared by the sender, in case of loss, theft, robbery or deterioration;
c) Direct mail - correspondence bearing an identical message sent to a significant number of addressees, exclusively for the advertising purposes of marketing or dissemination;
d) International postal services – postal items received from a third State or sent to it, originating in Portugal;
e) Postal orders - special payment orders which enable the transfer of funds;
f) Document exchange centres - places where users may carry out self-distribution through the mutual exchange of postal items with their own boxes. For this purpose, users must set up a group of members who subscribe to this service;
4 - The postal network is understood to be the set of human and material resources, owned, organised and operated by an entity that provides postal services, ensuring the operations of acceptance, processing, transport and distribution of postal items.
5 - The public postal network is the postal network established, managed and operated by the universal service operator.
6 - Access points are understood to be the physical sites, including post-boxes of whatsoever kind at public disposal, whether in public space or other public or private places, where users may deposit postal items in the postal network.
7 - Operations inherent to postal service are:
a) Acceptance, which constitutes the set of operations related to the entrance of postal items in the postal network, in particular the collection of postal items at the respective access points;
b) Processing, which consists of the preparation of postal items on the operator’s premises for conveyance to the distribution centre of the area to which it is addressed;
c) Transport, which consist of the movement of postal items by appropriate technical means from the access point to the postal network and thus to the distribution centre of the area to which it is addressed;
d) Distribution, which consists of the operations effected from the sorting of postal items at the distribution centre of the area to which it is addressed to delivery to the addressees.
1 - The State shall guarantee the existence and availability of universal service, understood to be a permanent offer of postal services of a specific quality, provided throughout national territory at prices accessible to all users. The aim is to satisfy the communication needs of the population and those of economic and social activities.
2 - To this end, the State shall ensure that the density of contact and access points corresponds to users’ needs .
Scope of universal service
1 - The universal service mentioned in the above article encompasses a postal service for the sending of correspondence, books, catalogues, newspapers and other periodicals weighing up to 2 kg and postal packages of up to 20 kg, as well as a service of registered items and service of insured items.
2 - The provisions in the above section cover postal service at both national and international levels.
Provision of universal service
1 - The provision of the universal service may be carried out by:
a) the State;
b) a corporate entity governed by public law;
c) a corporate entity governed by private law, by means of a contract.
2 - The contract referred to in paragraph c) of the above section concerns the manner of concession of a public service, when it involves the provision of reserved services and the establishment, management and operation of the public postal network;
3 - The concession of a public service referred to in the above section shall assign the respective operator the obligation to provide postal services in a competitive framework that includes universal service, without the need for any other title, as well as the ability to operate other postal services;
4 - The legal regime applicable to the universal service shall be laid out in the implementing provisions.
Quality of universal service
1 – Beyond complying with the obligations arising from the provisions referred to in section 4 of article 7, the provision of universal service shall particularly satisfy the following fundamental conditions:
a) Compliance with the appropriate quality standards, especially in terms of delivery deadlines, density of access points, regularity and reliability of service;
b) Provision of the service under equal and non-discriminatory conditions;
c) Continuity of service, except in cases of force majeure;
d) Progressive development of the service, with respect to the technical, economic and social environment and the users' needs;
e) Respect of the obligations inherent to the provision of universal service, deriving from international obligations, and which the State shall in future transpose to internal law;
f) Supply of information to the public on the conditions and prices of services.
2 - The universal service provider shall ensure collection and home distribution, at least once a day, on all working days.
3 - When this is not possible, due to exceptional geographical conditions or circumstances, recognised as such by the postal regulatory body, those services shall be provided on specific premises to be defined in the implementing provisions.
4 - The universal service provider shall appropriately publicise and regularly provide users with precise and up to date information on the characteristics of the universal service offered, namely on the general conditions of access and use of the service, prices and the level of quality.
5 – By arrangement between the regulator and the universal service provider, in a negotiating process to accompany that deriving from the price regime referred to in article 14, the parameters and minimum quality levels associated with the provision of universal service will be established and published, particularly with respect to routing time, regularity and reliability of service.
6 - The parameters and quality levels mentioned in the above section must be compatible with the quality standards, when existent, established for intra-community services and for other international services.
7 - The regulatory body shall ensure, independently of the universal service provider, quality level monitoring for the services actually provided. The results shall be published in a report at least once a year.
Costs of universal service and compensation fund
1 - The universal service provider may have access to a cost compensation fund for universal service, should the regulatory body consider that the obligations linked to the service result in an excessive economic and financial burden.
2 - In compliance with the above section, the universal service provider shall, within the scope of the cost accounting system to which it is subject under the terms of article 19, demonstrate the costs associated with the provision of universal service and the burden to be taken on by the fund, after approval by the regulatory body and under terms to be set in the implementing provisions of this law.
3 - The compensation fund shall be administered by a body independent of the beneficiary, under the terms to be set out in the implementing provisions, and shall receive its income from:
a) Contribution from all postal service providers offering services in the non-reserved area, but within the scope of universal service;
b) Profits of philatelic activity.
Exercising the activity
The principle of gradual and controlled liberalisation of postal services is enshrined by means of appropriate procedures under a framework of general authorisation or individual licences, which shall be established by the implementing provisions.
1 - Reserved services are those furnished under an exclusive regime by the provider of universal service, under the terms of section 2 of article 7, which constitutes the public postal service referred to in Law 88-A/97 of 25 July.
2 - Reserved services encompass:
a) The postal service for sending correspondence, including direct mail, with or without accelerated delivery, whose price is less than five times the public price for the sending of correspondence of the first weight step in the fastest standard category, as long as it weighs less than 350 g;
b) The postal service for sending registered and insured correspondence, including postal writ of summons and judicial notifications, within the same price and weight limits in the above paragraph;
c) The issue and sale of stamps and other postal products;
d) The issue of postal orders;
e) The placing in public space of post-boxes of whatsoever kind for the collection of postal items.
3 - The provisions in paragraphs a) and b) of the above section cover the postal service for correspondence at national and international levels.
4 - The scope of the reserved services may be subject to occasional revision, in the form of a decree law, in line with Community law and within the scope of the sector’s gradual liberalisation.
Postal services subject to competition
1 - Postal services not covered by the previous article shall be operated under a competition regime, namely:
a) The operation of document exchange centres;
b) Express mail, as long as it exceeds the price and weight limits set out in paragraph a) of section 2 of article 11.
2 - The provision of postal services operated in competition may be effected by bodies that provide universal service or by individuals or by corporations duly qualified for such purpose.
3 - The provision of postal services operated in competition by the individuals or corporations mentioned in the last part of the above section shall be regulated by the regime for access to the activity, to be defined in the implementing provisions.
The regulation for the operation of postal services shall among other things safeguard the essential conditions laid out in article 3, and the obligation on the part of the service providers to acquire the technical and human means that ensure respect for users’ rights.
1 - Price setting for each of the services that make up universal service shall conform to the principles of cost-orientation, non-discrimination, transparency and access by all users.
2 - The rules for setting the prices of postal services included in universal service shall be subject to an arrangement between the regulatory body, the Directorate General for Trade and Competition and the operator.
3 - The price of the other postal services shall freely be set by the respective operators.
Postal service right of use
All have the right to use postal services, in exchange for payment of the corresponding prices and tariffs, as long as all applicable legal and regulatory provisions are observed.
Postal service operators shall, while exercising their activity ensure transparent, simple and inexpensive procedures for the processing of users' complaints, and provide timely and grounded reply to these.
Right to hearing
Approval of the operation regulation referred to in article 13 and the conclusion of arrangements, which establish the parameters, quality levels and price regime of universal service, as mentioned in articles 8 and 14, shall be preceded by hearings of consumer representative organisations.
1 - The State is to draw up the strategic guidelines and general policies of the postal sector, approve applicable legislation and regulations, and regulate postal services.
2 - In pursuit of the State's duties, the Instituto das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP) is, as the postal regulatory body, responsible for:
a) Representation in intergovernmental organisations within the scope of postal services;
b) The granting of licences for the exercise of postal activity in competition;
c) Monitoring the quality and prices of postal services included in universal service;
d) Overseeing of postal service operators’ compliance with the legal and regulatory provisions associated to the activity and the application of respective sanctions.
1 - The universal service provider must, under terms to be defined in the measure mentioned in section 4 of article 7, possess a cost accounting system which enables the determination of earnings and costs, direct and indirect, for each of the reserved services and each of the non-reserved services. In addition, it must enable distinction between the various basic operations included in the postal services contemplated in section 1 of article 4.
2 - The regulatory body must approve the cost accounting system mentioned in the above section, oversee its correct application and annually publish a statement proving compliance of the cost accounting system and demonstrating the results obtained.
Defence of competition
Postal service operators may not engage in any sole or joint practices that falsify competition conditions, under the terms of the law.
Conditions of access to the public postal network
The universal service provider must guarantee access to the public postal network in transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, according to terms to be set out in the implementing provisions.
1 - The users of the universal service may either individually or via their representative organisations submit complaints to the postal regulatory body in cases involving previous complaints that the respective postal service operator has not responded to in a timely and well-founded manner or which have not been satisfactorily resolved.
2 - The postal regulatory body shall assess and issue an opinion on the complaints submitted.
3 - The postal regulatory body shall ensure that the universal service provider publishes information on the total number of complaints and the manner in which they are processed, along with an annual report on the monitoring of service quality levels mentioned in section 7 of article 8.
Co-ordination in emergencies
The State must, under the terms of the law, ensure adequate co-ordination of postal services in emergency, crisis or war situations.
Final and transitory provisions
Safeguard of acquired rights
The provisions set out in this measure do not undermine the rights acquired by the CTT - Correios de Portugal, S.A., before its entry into force, except where they are incompatible with the regime deriving from this measure and the concession contract to be signed under the terms of article 7, section 2.
The provisions of the Public Postal Service Regulation approved by Decree-Law 176/88 of 18 May, and the regulatory measures adopted within its scope that are not incompatible with the provisions of this measure, shall remain valid until the entry into force of this law.
Decree-Law 188/81 of 2 July, except for its article 7, is hereby revoked.
Approved on 27 May 1999. The Speaker of Parliament, António de Almeida Santos.
Promulgated, 8 July 1999.
Let this be duly published.
The President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio.
Countersigned, 14 July 1999.
The Prime Minister, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres.