Discussion Papers

Petra Junk, Sonja Thiele:

Methods for consumer surveys to identify the needs for universal postal service

No. 396 / December 2014

(Full version only available in German)


The German Postal Act requires regular adjustments of the scope of the universal postal service according to the needs of users (see § 11 (2) of the Postal Act). However, the requirements for the universal postal service are virtually unchanged since its adoption in 1998, although the available means of communication as well as the communication behaviour of the general public has changed considerably.

Consumer surveys are an appropriate tool to give public authorities and policy makers stronger arguments for developing the universal postal service. They help to identify the needs of consumers with respect to the universal postal service. Several regulatory authorities in Europe have repeatedly carried out such consumer surveys.

The aim of the study is to determine trends regarding the need for universal postal service and to draw conclusions for a potential consumer survey in Germany by means of an international comparison of consumer surveys. First, the study analyses various methods for consumer surveys. Second, the study investigates the need for a universal postal service of consumers by comparing relevant international consumer surveys.

International comparisons shows that the price is a particularly important product attribute for consumers. In addition, the density of the branch network and the delivery quality are important to consumers. Consumers also show an increasing interest in the delivery of parcels in the evening or on weekends. These international findings generally appear relevant to Germany as well.

A focused consumer survey in Germany would provide federal government and legislators with reliable arguments for further developing universal postal service. We propose to restrict such a survey to consumers. Further, we propose to allocate the sample by a quota at least by age and geography in order to sufficiently consider the needs of population groups that may be more affected by changes in the universal postal service (e.g. elderly people and people in rural areas). As regards methodology, we propose comparing bundles of product attributes that are easy to understand in order to estimate the willingness to pay for the individual service characteristics. We propose investigating the following attributes: price, density of the postal network, transit time/delivery frequency, need for the product "registered mail" as well as the delivery location for parcels. We also recommend to examine the product characteristics separately for mail and parcel services.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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