Brussels, 26 May 2014
State aid: Commission approves two public service compensation measures for the French post office
The European Commission has concluded that tax relief granted by France to the French post office (La Poste) to ensure that a high density of postal services is maintained over the period 2013-2017 is in line with EU rules on state aid. It has also authorised the payment of a grant to fund La Poste's task of transporting and delivering the press over the period 2013-2015. The Commission considered that the two aid measures are not likely to unduly distort competition in the Single Market, in particular because they only partially offset the net costs of the public service tasks incumbent on La Poste.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: 'Today's decision will enable La Poste to continue performing its fundamental social and economic role and important public service tasks, without unduly distorting competition.'
La Poste's 'territorial presence' task is designed to ensure the high density of the postal network, over and above the universal service obligation, particularly in rural areas. To fund this, the public service contract between the State and La Poste for 2013‑2017 provides that La Poste will receive local tax relief of some €170 million/year (€850 million in total over the period in question).
The task of transporting and delivering the press obliges La Poste to offer advantageous regulated rates to publications of acknowledged general interest. The memorandum of understanding signed in 2008 by the State, La Poste and the press trade unions provides that La Poste will receive grants amounting to €597 million over the period 2013-2015 for the purpose of carrying out this task.
The Commission examined the two measures under the rules for state aid in the form of public service compensation, adopted in 2011 (see IP/11/1571). These rules aim, in particular, to avoid distortions of competition arising from overcompensation. The Commission is satisfied that La Poste would not be overcompensated for the two measures in question, in particular because the amount of the compensation only partially covers the net costs of the public service obligations.
La Poste has been a publicly-owned French corporation since 23 March 2010 and is France’s incumbent postal operator with responsibility for the universal postal service and a number of public service obligations, including territorial coverage and transporting and delivering the press.
Its 'territorial presence' task is designed to ensure the high density of the postal network, over and above the universal service obligation, particularly in rural areas and in keeping with regional planning objectives. La Poste meets its obligations through 9 000 outlets, with post offices gradually being replaced by partnerships with local shops and town halls to provide contact points that are cheaper to run and that will therefore contribute to gradually reducing costs.
The task of transporting and delivering the press obliges La Poste to offer advantageous regulated rates to publications of acknowledged general interest, in particular those that provide members of the public with general and political information. This task is designed to encourage and promote pluralism of opinion.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number SA.36512 in the State Aid Register on the competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. The electronic newsletter State Aid Weekly e‑News lists the most recent decisions on state aid published in the Official Journal and on the internet.
See also the "Competition Policy Brief":