PostNL has handed in a nine-figure invoice to Dutch regulators for payment to meet the costs of providing universal postal services in the Netherlands.
The designated postal operator in the Netherlands said it wanted between EUR 107m and EUR 125m to cover the deficit from running basic postal services in 2011.
Under Dutch law the obligation to reimburse PostNL would be shared out among other postal operators in the Netherlands.
Applying for the payment through the Independent Post and Telecommunication Authority (OPTA), PostNL said it covered costs for meeting its legal requirements for running a six-day delivery service, 19,000 mail collection boxes and its network of more than 2,600 postal outlets.
PostNL said it was seeking increased compensation this year because its costs were going up thanks to decreasing mail volumes.
By comparison, the year before (2010) saw the company’s report to the regulator showing only a “slightly negative” return for the universal service, which the OPTA said was of “little significance” because of the freedom the company had in absorbing the universal service costs across the business.
The OPTA confirmed today it would now assess whether there was an actual net cost to PostNL for 2011, and if needed share out the bill among postal operators in the Netherlands.
This could see PostNL meeting a portion of the costs since it also runs postal services in the Dutch market that also fall outside the universal service obligation, such as bulk mail.
“After determination of the net costs, the costs need to be divided over the postal companies in the Netherlands. As a provider of postal services that also fall outside the universal service obligation, PostNL is one of these companies,” said PostNL in a statement.
The 2011 year saw revenues for mail services in the Netherlands fall by 4.3% compared to 2010, with mail volumes shrinking by 7.2% year-on-year, including a 7.5% drop in single piece mail and 7.1% drop in bulk mail volumes.
During the year, the Dutch Parliament passed regulation allowing a 10% “reasonable rate of return” on postal rates for the universal service, which allowed PostNL to put its basic stamp price up four cents to 50c as of January 1, 2012.
The company is currently hoping to cut its lettermail service costs through a network restructuring, but yesterday announced plans to delay the process in order to run fresh pilot studies.
Mail security issues
Separately, the OPTA issued an order on Monday to PostNL demanding that its procedures regarding protection for customers’ privacy levels need to improve.
The regulator said PostNL has not done enough to safeguard the confidentiality of letters during transport, and that the postal operator could face a fine as high as EUR 450,000 for failing its legal requirements.
The OPTA said research from several routes and depots where mail is stored prior to delivery suggested “a number of irregularities”.
These included “little or no supervision” of stored mail, locations that were easily accessible by third parties, unattended mail bags that were visible and accessible from public roads, and open mail bags at sites that were not secure.
The OPTA said PostNL must now secure these sites, and where effective supervision cannot be provided, sites must be closed.
PostNL is now investigating the issue following the order from the OPTA, the regulator said.