Universal Postal Union Meetings In Berne
The Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) two main deliberative bodies, the Postal Operations Council and the Council of Administration, met in Berne this month to begin action on policies approved at last October’s UPU Congress in Doha. The agenda included hundreds of proposals from member nations including the United States.
Of particular concern to some are questions of how the U.S. should respond to UPU policies which appear to be at odds with federal law. The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act’s Section 407 requires “unrestricted and undistorted competition” between national posts and private delivery companies, and prohibits entering international agreements where competitive preference is given. It also requires making a clear distinction between governmental and operational responsibilities.
UPU decisionmaking includes the national posts of member nations, but excludes private companies. It is unclear how U.S. law can remain consistent with some UPU initiatives toward which U.S. dues are applied, such as postal markets development, expanding e-commerce, and simplifying export processes.
Royal Mail Sale May Include Change In Britain’s Universal Service Obligation
Required six-day-a-week delivery at one uniform price may limit offers. Ministers setting up terms for the proposed 2013 sell-off of Royal Mail may include legal provisions to allow a redefinition of the universal service obligation (USO), according to a December article in The Telegraph. Given the decline in mail volumes, a costly universal service obligation makes Royal Mail unattractive to potential bidders and may lower the price the entity could command.
Meanwhile, the legal requirement to deliver to every address in the United Kingdom six days a week at “uniform and affordable prices” is being set up by opponents of the sale as a bedrock condition for keeping Royal Mail intact.
Japan Post Continues To Expand Its Dominant Position In The Economy
Government rulings help Japan Post move deeper into insurance and banking. The nation’s government-owned postal conglomerate is consolidating its hold on “private” deposit banking and life insurance markets. In December 2012, the American Council of Life Insurers expressed opposition to Japan Post’s usage of the Postal Privatization Law to broaden the reach of its insurance offerings while still benefiting from government-sanctioned postal monopolies. The ACLI maintains that the expansion runs counter to Japan’s obligations under the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
One unit of Japan Post is already the world’s biggest bank, and another controls 40 percent of Japan’s life insurance market.
In an interview earlier this month, new UPU Director-General Bishar Hussein, a former Kenyan postal official, stated that among his top priorities would be the establishment of postal financial services, including “moving towards establishing fully-fledged postal banking services.”
China Struggles To Keep Up With Red-Hot Express Delivery Market
Explosive growth in e-commerce swamps capacity. Last year, 5.7 billion packages were delivered express in China — a 55 percent increase over the previous year. The director-general of the State Post Bureau of China expects express services volume to grow an additional 40 percent this year.
A report from Boston Consulting Group projects that China is likely to become the world’s biggest online retail market by 2015, with sales projected to pass $360 billion. But industry observers believe that China will not be able to keep up with the demand for express shipping services that the growth in online retail will generate.
Postal Agencies Turning Focus To Recipient Services To Boost Revenues
At the March European Postal Services Conference in Madrid, Accenture released a new report — “Achieving High Performance in the Postal Industry: Accenture Research and Insights 2013” — concluding that major postal operators are now creating “smart options” for package addressees that give them more control over when and how high-value mail is delivered. Paralleling initiatives in traditional mail, fee-based electronic notification of pending deliveries will allow recipients to schedule or redirect delivery of packages.
One new UPU initiative being developed is a new international return service for consumers seeking to return items purchased from foreign sellers.
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