Discussion Papers

Alex Kalevi Dieke, Sonja Schölermann

Wettbewerbspolitische Bedeutung des Postleitzahlensystems

Nr. 276 / Juni 2006


Every address in Germany has a corresponding postcode. The current postcode system exists since 1993 and has been optimized according to Deutsche Post AG´s (DPAG) structure of sorting centres which has been implemented during the 1990s. The German postcode system consists of different types of postal codes. There are postcodes for geographic areas, for post box facilities and large receivers of mail may get their own postcode. Currently, DPAG administrates the postcode system autonomously.

Postcodes fulfil several functions. Postal service providers use postcodes to identify addresses and to convey postal items through their logistic networks. In the partly liberalised German postal market, DPAG is not the only user but competitors use the postcode system as well. In addition, non-postal users employ postcodes for sorting and organisation purposes, e. g. for navigation systems. The aim of this study is firstly to assess the efficiency of the postcode system from a social perspective. Thereto, the study analyses whether the postcode system takes appropriate account of the needs of DPAG, competitors and other users. Secondly, the study examines which obstacles for the development of competition may potentially arise from the postcode system and discusses implications for regulatory policy.

As regards efficiency of the postcode system, the study concludes that the fundamental structure of the system appears as sufficiently efficient. For the medium term, we do not identify needs of competitors or other users that would call for changes of this fundamental structure of the postcode system. Concerning ongoing changes of geographic postcodes, though, we draw a different conclusion: The current system does not ensure appropriate consideration of the interests of consumers, municipalities, competitors and the respective costs to these users. Thus, the study proposes implementing a panel for participation of all postcode users (to be consulted for changes of geographic postcode areas).

Potential obstacles to competition result mainly from lacking or delayed information by DPAG about changes of postcodes for post box facilities and large receivers. Until now, DPAG does not systematically use this potential to discriminate its competitors. In order to prevent problems to competition in the future, the study recommends obliging DPAG to continue its current information procedures.

The postcode system impacts the provision of services downstream to the conveyance of postal items, especially operation of post box facilities and the handling of incoming mail for receivers. Competition in this downstream market could be promoted by giving competitors the opportunity to assign postcodes to their customers. [Full text available in German only]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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