Discussion Papers

Sonja Schölermann

Das Produktangebot von Universaldienstleistern und deren Vergleichbarkeit
Nr. 260 / Dezember 2004


The minimum scope of the universal service in the European Union has been harmonized by the Postal Directive 97/67/EG. Similar requirements have also been codified in Swiss postal law. In contrast, the United States of America and Canada do not have similar detailed universal service definitions. The range of universal postal services provided  by national postal operators in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, USA and Canada have been described and compared with each other as well as with requirements at European Union (EU) and at Universal Postal Union (UPU) level.  Significant differences between the service portfolios of these Universal Service Providers (USPs) have been identified and discussed.

In general, the range of universal postal services is similar among all USPs. The services for standard letters and packets as well as for registered and insured items are performed by all providers. USPs providing postal services in the Member States of the EU (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain) comply with the Directive’s minimum requirements. In spite of these general similarities there are significant differences between the services if considered in detail. Service classes, format and weight scales as well as price differentiation exemplify these differences.

Service classes for letters are quite different among USPs. Five out of nine USPs offer two service classes usually characterised by graduated transit time targets (e.g. first and second class letter). In the EU the first class letter (or the fastest standard category) often has a transit time target of D+1. Only in Spain letters of the fastest standard category shall be delivered within three working days after collection (D+3). Outside Europe (USA and Canada) D+1 transit time targets are not common because of the country size.

Format and weight scales are also considerably different. The range comprises pure weight-based tariff structures as well as tariff structures based on a mix of format, size and weight:  Deutsche Post AG has the most detailed format and size based tariff structure while Royal Mail still applies weight-based prices.

Special tariffs for bulk mail are widespread. The Swedish USP offers the broadest range of special tariffs comprising for example tariffs based on the expected working load.

In spite of differences in the universal service obligations in Europe and North America the range of postal services has been generally quite similar. Nevertheless, postal services strongly differ when considering selected criteria. Against the background of national peculiarities especially in regulation these differences are the starting point for identifying important universal as well as country-specific drivers influencing the range of postal services offered by USPs. [Only German language version available.]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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