Europe's postal users urge Ministers to open postal market

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The European Postal Users Group will issue a rallying call to European Ministers today to back opening up Europe's postal markets in 2009.

The call came hours ahead of the first formal discussion by the Ministers of the European Commission's recent proposal to lift the final element of monopoly in the postal market.

"We want to bring Ministers the good news for the postal sector. The market can grow and in so doing provide real long-term confidence in the security of universal services," said Per Mortensen, PUG chairman. "But it can only grow if postal operators become more responsive to users, and that's not going to happen unless the market is fully opened up."

PUG represents the broad range of associations representing companies that provide services to consumers reliant on the post.

The EC 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.

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 receive 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.

PUG members are united in their confidence that a postal sector that responds to user needs will enable them to expand their businesses sustainably into the future.

For example, the group said the online retail market is expected to grow by a further 186 percent between 2005 and 2010; publishing trends show that printed press content will continue to be an important means of disseminating information, ideas and entertainment - the opportunity across the EU is to match the 87 percent of newspapers delivered by the post in leading member states; and 24 of the 25 member states expect an increase in direct mail volumes.

Mr. Mortensen said opportunities from cross-border mail are even more striking.

"When the commission started looking at liberalizing the postal sector in 1992, international letter post represented just 3 percent of mail volumes. It had risen less than 1 percentage point by 2005, according to the commission's studies," he said. "The single market process seems to have passed the post by the wayside, and it is time to start catching up again. The commission's proposal provides the basis for postal operators to become an engine for growth in e-commerce, cultural diversity and new services."

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