The South African Post Office (Sapo) wants courier companies to pay it an “agency fee” for the privilege of delivering parcels that weigh less than a kilogram.
It revealed its plan in an invitation to courier companies to submit their “expression of interest” to be appointed agents of the Post Office to deliver packages.
This comes after the Post Office approached the sector regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), and laid a complaint against PostNet.
While the complaint was against PostNet, it had far-reaching consequences for South Africa’s whole private courier industry, as the Post Office argued that it has a state-sanctioned monopoly over deliveries under 1kg.
Icasa referred the complaint to its Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC), which ruled in the Post Office’s favour.
It cited the Postal Services Act 124 of 1998, which states that only a licensed postal services operator may render certain reserved postal services.
Reserved services include delivery of small parcels with specific dimensions and a mass of up to 1kg.
According to the CCC, the Post Office was granted a monopoly with a clear intention to widen the availability of postal services throughout the country.
The ruling would have effectively allowed the Post Office to block all private couriers from delivering small parcels in South Africa.
PostNet approached the Gauteng High Court to challenge the CCC’s ruling.
It was granted an interdict to allow it—and other couriers—to continue offering their services until the matter was heard in court.
Considering the Post Office’s intention to monopolise the delivery of all small parcels, this raises a question — how does it plan to serve the needs of South Africa’s entire ecommerce industry?
“The Post Office is looking at various options, including a partnership with interested courier companies,” a spokesperson for the Post Office told MyBroadband.
“The Post Office has already hosted a well-attended briefing session for courier companies who are interested in a partnership.”
However, the Post Office would not subcontract courier companies to deliver parcels — they would simply pay SAPO’s agency fee to carry on their business as usual.
According to the Expression of Interest document, which MyBroadband has seen, the Post Office wants to appoint service providers to render courier services as its agents.
Although the matter is still before the court, the Post Office said it reserves the right to invite formal proposals from those courier services providers that responded to its request for expressions of interest.
“At this stage and subject to agreement between the parties on the commercial terms of appointment, SAPO does not intend to limit the number of providers of courier services that can be appointed as agents of SAPO in respect of the courier conveyance of specified postal articles,” the document stated.
It also reserved its right to cancel the request at any time and to not appoint any agents to act on its behalf.
“SAPO’s expectation is that providers that are appointed as SAPO agents in respect of the conveyance of specified postal articles by courier will pay a fee to SAPO since, in SAPO’s understanding, SAPO is the only licensed provider of services in respect of the specified postal articles,” stated the document.
“Revenues raised in this way will apply towards achieving SAPO’s universal service obligations.”
Garry Marshall, the CEO of the South African Express Parcel Association (Saepa), said that they don’t believe the Post Office has the right to a monopoly.
“[SAPO’s proposed agency fee] is a form of tax,” he told MyBroadband.
“We are as convinced as ever that we have a right to courier parcels under 1kg, and we’ll take it to the highest court in the land.”