The SA Post Office and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) want to stop private courier companies from delivering any packages under 1kg in South Africa.
This is one of the main talking points which emerged from a recent Gauteng High Court case between PostNet and ICASA.
The battle started in 2018 when the SA Post Office lodged a complaint at ICASA against PostNet for “providing services which may only be undertaken by SAPO”.
According to the Post Office, it is the only licensed provider of reserved postal services and is therefore the only institution which may deliver packages which weigh 1kg and less.
In terms of the Postal Services Act 124 of 1998, only a licenced postal services operator may render services defined as reserved postal services.
The reserved postal services include all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels, and other postal articles up to and including 1kg.
Reserved Postal Services
1. The reserved postal services include –
(a) all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels and other postal articles subject to the mass or size limitations set;
(b) issuing of postage stamps; and
(c) the provision of roadside collection and address boxes.
3. The reserved postal services include all items described in items 1 (a) and 2 of a mass up to and including one kilogram or size which enables it to fit into a rectangular box with the following dimensions:
length 458 mm, width 324 mm, thickness 100 mm Cylinders having a maximum length of 458 mm and 100 mm thickness or a mass of up to one kilogram are regarded as letters.
ICASA referred the complaint to the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC), which ruled in the Post Office’s favour.
The CCC said the Postal Services Act has created a monopoly in favour of the SA Post Office, and that the one kilogram and less limitation is constitutionally justifiable.
“The monopoly is clearly intended to place SAPO in a financial position to widen the availability of postal services throughout the country,” the CCC said.
“No one is permitted to transport or deliver reserved postage as set out in the Schedules to the Act, unless licensed to do so in terms of the Act.”
It added that only the South African Post Office is currently licensed to offer reserved postal services.
This means all courier services which deliver packages of under 1kg in South Africa are breaking the law.
The CCC subsequently ruled that PostNet has contravened the Postal Services Act in that it has operated a reserved postal service without a licence.
It ordered PostNet to desist from contravening the Postal Services Act 1998 within 90 working days from the date on which ICASA issued the judgment.
The 90-day period ends on 17 March 2020.
PostNet fighting back
PostNet challenged the lawfulness, constitutionality, and validity of ICASA and the CCC’s decision and ICASA’s order.
It also approached the Gauteng High Court for interim relief against ICASA’s desist order, pending the outcome of its main challenge.
PostNet highlighted that sub-1kg packages account for a substantial portion of its business, and that of its franchisees and other courier companies.
To force them to stop delivering these packages will cause them significant and irreparable harm. It will also cause tremendous harm to consumers.
It highlighted that many people and businesses rely on private courier companies for important deliveries, like passports, visas, or bank cards.
The Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of PostNet, which means it can continue delivering packages under 1kg until the main challenge is concluded.
Big impact on the South African courier industry
While the CCC ruling, ICASA’s order, and the legal battle is currently focussed on PostNet, the implications for the courier industry are enormous.
It can set a precedent which will prevent any courier company in South Africa from delivering packages which weigh less than 1kg.
The Post Office confirmed to MyBroadband that all courier companies operating in South Africa must abide by the Act which prohibits deliveries under 1kg by non-licensees.
Should the Post Office’s view be enforced, however, it will devastate the courier industry and wreak havoc in the South African ecommerce market.
Businesses like banks and mobile operators will also have to find reliable alternatives to their current courier partners to deliver products to their clients.
Many South African consumers and businesses also do not trust the Post Office to deliver their packages in a timely manner.
Courier companies have stepped in to fill this void, and a large part of the economy now relies on private courier companies for deliveries.
No comment from ICASA
MyBroadband asked ICASA for comment on this issue, but it did not respond by the time of publication.