Ecommerce Europe publishes its position paper on the Postal Services Directive

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On 9 November, Ecommerce Europe published its Position Paper on the Postal Services Directive (PSD), in light of the European Commission’s public consultation on the evaluation of the directive. The paper outlines some recommendations on behalf of the European digital commerce sector for policymakers, also following the public consultation carried on by the European Regulators Group for Postal Services (ERGP) in September 2020. The consultation aims at assessing whether the PSD is still fit for purpose and achieves its original aims.

The PSD, originally designed 20 years ago and last amended in 2008, provided the first stage of the creation of an internal market of postal services in the EU. However, through e-commerce and the growth of commercial delivery services, the creation of an internal market of postal services has entered a second stage. E-commerce has played an especially positive force for postal service providers, driving parcel volumes across their networks at a time of decline in letter volumes. In this regard, Ecommerce Europe first advocates for a harmonisation and clarification of postal definitions and terms of reference (e.g. parcel, mail, postal item, postal services, postal service providers, etc.) between the postal regulatory framework and other regulatory frameworks. Only when harmonised definitions will be in place, it will be possible to fully assess if harmonisation of terms is enough or if there is any need to further revise the EU postal legislative framework.

It has also to be considered that the exponential growth of e-commerce has made consumer demand evolve. Although the Commission’s consultation does not raise the question if existing provisions regarding postal services in the Consumer Rights Directive are sufficient, or specific/additional provisions are needed, Ecommerce Europe considers it very important to clarify this aspect. In our opinion, EU consumer legislation already provides for sufficient protection for end consumers. As far as the end consumer is concerned, the contractual relationship in an e-commerce transaction should remain focused on the one between the seller and the consumer. Consumers buying goods online do not have a contract with the postal service provider, as this is taken care of by the seller itself. That is why Ecommerce Europe does not support the direction recently suggested by the ERGP in its report on “consumer issues” to introduce a potential right for the recipient (end consumer) to choose a delivery provider of his/her choice. Consumers would lack the required knowledge to make an informed decision in this regard. Moreover, the seller’s choice can depend on several factors, including reliability, quality of service, costs, availability, strategic partnerships, green aspects, and any other services a seller would like to offer to its consumers to serve them in the best way possible.

With regard to the Universal Service Obligation (USO), the PSD had of course the fundamental goal of establishing a common market for postal services in the EU and guaranteeing the provision of a basic and affordable postal service, for letter mail and parcels, for all citizens across the entire territory. The USO for parcels is necessary to keep economic participation high, grow small businesses by expanding their reach, and acts as a great equalizer of opportunity for rural, vulnerable and underserved communities. Therefore, Ecommerce Europe seeks to strengthen the USO, especially by ensuring 100% geographical coverage for parcel pick-up and delivery operations, also in areas that are very costly or remote. This being said, Ecommerce Europe firmly stresses that any major regulatory intervention should only be proposed when there is a clear, evidence-based justification for intervening, such as market failure.

This article provides some insights on the views of Ecommerce Europe in relation to the Postal Services Directive. More detailed information can be found in our position paper, freely accessible at this website. Ecommerce Europe and its members stand ready to support EU policymakers in their work on the EU postal legislative framework, to ensure that it will remain fit for the current and future challenges of the digital commerce sector.

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