EC wants full postal market by 2009

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The European Commission has proposed to open European Union postal markets fully to competition by 2009, in line with the target date set out in the current Postal Directive.

The EC said research indicates that opening EU postal markets is the best way to maintain universal service while further improving quality and choice for consumers and businesses.

"With full market opening in 2009, we can look forward to more innovation, better services and improved cost-efficiency," said Charlie McCreevy, EC internal market and services commissioner. "Without it, EU postal markets will be increasingly unable to meet the challenges of the communications revolution. Market opening plays a crucial role in the long-term viability of the sector and the employment it generates."

National operators would lose their monopoly on mail below a certain weight -- currently a maximum of 50 grams -- known as the "reserved area," the EC said. Universal service providers would get incentives to focus on customers and to innovate.

Some member states such as Sweden, Finland and Britain already have chosen not to have reserved areas. Where states have maintained reserved areas, these would be opened.

Consumers would benefit from services such as track and trace of the mail piece, combining traditional mail with electronic media and more convenient home shopping delivery.

Universal service requirements such as at least one delivery and collection five days a week for every EU citizen would be maintained, monitored by national regulatory authorities.

If net costs of providing universal service remain to be covered, states may choose from options including state aid, public procurement, compensation funds and cost sharing, the EC said.

The proposal, its supporting studies and the latest implementation report are available at http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/post/index_en.htm.

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