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The Establishment of an Internal Postal Market
The accomplishment of the internal market in postal services was achieved in legislative terms in 2008 with the adoption of Directive 2008/6/EC. Gradual market opening and liberalisation of EU postal services entered into a decisive phase. Member States need to guarantee the provision of high quality and affordable universal postal services throughout the EU. The establishment of independent national regulatory authorities is the main pillar of the EU postal reform. It also provides the regulatory framework for defining, among others, the universal service obligations and tariff principles, fixing common rules for transparency of accounts for universal service providers, as well as setting up and ensuring compliance with service standards
Directive 2008/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 Februray 2008 amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services [See amending acts].
The Community framework for EU postal services is set out in Directive 97/67/EC, as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC and by Directive 2008/6/EC, which provide the final step in the EU postal reform, which was initiated in 1992 by a green paper. Directive 97/67/EC initiated the liberalisation process which was deepened with Directive 2002/39/EC and further gradual market opening.
This directive established a timetable for progressive liberalisation in two stages: 1 January 2003 for letters weighing less than 100 g (or for which the postage cost is over three times that of a standard letter), and 1 January 2006 for letters weighing less than 50 g (or for which the postage cost is over two and a half times that of a standard letter).
Directive 2008/6/EC sets a deadline for the full market opening by 31 December 2010 for the majority of Member States (95 % of the EU postal market in terms of volume) and by 31 December 2012 for the remaining Member States.
Universal service obligation
Member States must ensure that users enjoy the right to a universal service involving the permanent provision of a postal service of specified quality at all points in their territory at affordable prices for all users.
To this end, Member States must ensure that the density of the points of contact and of the access points takes account of the needs of users, and that the universal service is guaranteed at least five working days a week, at least one clearance and one delivery to home or business premises. (Article 3).
Each Member State must guarantee the provision of the universal service and shall notify the Commission of the steps it has taken to fulfil this obligation. Member States may designate one or more undertakings as universal service providers to cover the entire national territory, subject to a periodic review (Article 4). . Each Member State shall determine and publish the rights and obligations assigned to the universal service provider(s) in accordance with Community law and shall disclose the identity of the universal service provider(s) to the European Commission.
Each Member State must ensure that universal service provision meets the following requirements (Article 5):
- it shall offer a service guaranteeing compliance with the essential requirement;
- it shall offer an identical service to users under comparable condition;
- it shall be made available without any form of discrimination whatsoever, especially without discrimination arising from political, religious or ideological consideration;
- it shall not be interrupted or stopped except in cases of force majeur;
- it shall evolve in response to the technical, economic and social developments and to the needs of users.
Each Member State must ensure that users and postal service providers are regularly given sufficiently detailed and up-to-date information by the universal service provider(s) regarding the particular features of the universal services offered (Article 6).
Safeguarding the provision of universal postal service
Directive 2008/6/EC provides the last legislative step in the gradual market opening by making it compulsory for Member States not to grant or maintain in force any exclusive or special rights for the establishment and provision of postal services.
If universal provider(s) claim and prove that the provision of universal postal service entails an unfair financial burden, Directive 2008/6/EC envisages compensation from Member States such as public procurement procedures, public funding or a shared mechanism between providers of services and/or users or any other means compatible with the Treaty.
Any claimed unfair financial burden needs to be assessed and approved by the independent national regulatory authority (Article 7).
Provision of postal services and licensing regimes
For postal services which are within the scope of the universal service, Member States may introduce authorisation procedures, including individual licences, in order to guarantee compliance with the essential requirements and to ensure the provision of the universal service.
For postal services which are outside the scope of the universal service, Member States may introduce general authorisations to guarantee compliance with the essential requirements.
All licensing procedures, obligations and requirements relating to postal services providers shall be transparent, accessible, non-discriminatory, proportionate, precise and unambiguous, made public in advance and based on objective criteria (Article 9).
Fees and transparency of accounts
Member States ensure that the fees for each of the services forming part of the provision of the universal service comply with the following principles:
- prices shall be affordable and must be such that all users, independent of geographical location, and, in the light of specific national conditions, have access to the service;
- prices shall be cost-oriented and give incentives for an efficient universal service provision;
- the application of a uniform fee shall not exclude the right of the universal service provider(s) to conclude individual price agreements with user;
- fees shall be transparent and non-discriminator;
- whenever universal service providers apply special fees, they shall apply the prinicples of transparency and non-discrimination with regard to both the fees and the associated conditions (Article 12).
In order to ensure the cross-border provision of the universal service, Member States must encourage their universal service providers to observe the following principles in their agreements on terminal dues for intra-Community cross-border mail:
- terminal dues must be fixed in relation to the costs of processing and delivering incoming cross-border mail;
- levels of remuneration must be related to the quality of service;
- terminal dues must be transparent and non-discriminatory (Article 13).
The universal service provider(s) shall keep separate accounts within their internal accounting systems in order to clearly distinguish between each of the services and products which are part of the universal service and those which are not. Such internal accounting systems shall operate on the basis of consistently applied and objectively justifiable cost accounting principles.
National regulatory authorities shall ensure that the cost-accounting system used is verified by a competent, independent body (Article 14).
Quality of service
Member States shall ensure that service standards in relation to universal service are set and published in order to guarantee a postal service of good quality.
In particular, quality standards shall focus, on routing times and on the regularity and reliability of services (Article 16).
Quality standards for intra-Community cross-border services (laid down in the Annex II to the directive) must be as follows: D + 3 for 85 % of postal items of the fastest standard category, and D + 5 for 97 % of these items. D represents the date of deposit and n the number of working days between the posting and the delivery.
Member States must lay down quality standards for national mail and must ensure that they are compatible with those laid down for intra-Community cross-border services.
Member States must notify their quality standards for national services to the Commission, which will publish them in the same manner as the standards for intra-Community cross-border services (Articles 17 and 18).
Member States shall ensure that transparent, simple and inexpensive complaint procedures are put in place by all postal service providers.
Member States shall ensure that these procedures enable disputes to be settled fairly and promptly. Member States shall also encourage the development of independent out-of-court schemes for the resolution of disputes between postal service providers and users (Article 19).
The harmonisation of technical standards must be continued, taking into account in particular the interests of users. The European Committee for Standardisation will be entrusted with drawing up technical standards applicable in the postal sector on the basis of remits to it pursuant to Directive 83/189/EEC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations (Article 20).
The European Commission and national regulatory authorities
The Commission will be assisted by a committee (Article 21).
Each Member State must designate one or more national regulatory authorities for the postal sector that are legally separate from and operationally independent of the postal operators. Member States that retain ownership or control of postal service providers shall ensure effective structural separation of the regulatory functions from activities associated with ownership of control.
Member States must inform the Commission which national regulatory authorities they have designated to carry out the tasks arising from this directive (Article 22).
Provision of information
Member States shall ensure that postal service providers provide all the financial information and information concerning the provision of the universal service necessary for: national regulatory authorities to ensure conformity with the provision of, or decisions made in accordance with this Directive; clearly defined statistical purposes (Article 22a).
Reporting on developments in the internal postal market
Every four years, no later than 31 December 2013, the Commission shall submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the application of this directive.
Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this directive by 31 December 2010 at the latest.
By derogation to the abovementioned obligation, the following Member States decided to invoke the right to postpone the implementation of Directive 2008/6/EC until 31 December 2012 at the latest.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Directive 97/67/EC [adoption: codecision COD/1995/0221]||
OJ L 15 of 21.1.1998
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
OJ L 15 of 5.7.2002
OJ L 52 of 28.2.2008
Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003
OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003