Items like smartphones, small electronics, bank cards, and medication may soon only be delivered through the Post Office.
This is if it wins its court face-off with PostNet and the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) over the delivery of packages weighing 1kg and less.
ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Commission (CCC) in late 2019 ruled that PostNet had contravened the Postal Services Act by transporting and delivering such packages.
According to the regulations, only a licenced postal services operator may render services defined as “reserved postal services.”
As the only operator of this kind in South Africa, the Post Office has the exclusive right to provide delivery services for all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels, and other postal articles up to and including 1kg.
PostNet was initially ordered to stop delivering all packages weighing 1kg and less by 17 March 2020.
However, it secured an interdict which has allowed it to continue to deliver these packages until the full challenge is heard in the Gauteng High Court.
It has been joined by SAEPA, who represents courier companies like FedEx, DHL, UPS, CourierIT, RAM, and Globeflight.
The organisation has told MyBroadband that the impact could be disastrous if the court ruled in the Post Office’s favour.
Individual South African customers and online shopping companies rely on private couriers to deliver many products to their homes on time and with efficiency.
The SA Post Office’s services, by contrast, have been in a decline over the last few years, with packages often reported as lost or stolen.
In addition, the majority of its offering only delivers to branches and not directly to the customer’s home.
SAEPA CEO Garry Marshall said that many of the products currently carried by private couriers fell into the sub-1kg category which the Post Office is laying claim to.
“It just covers such a broad range of commodities across the board,” Marshall said.
“The most dramatic that people can relate to are medications, cell phones, and electronic equipment.”
He provided the example of someone working from home who would need to order a small router.
If the Post Office wins the case, a customer would need to have it shipped through them.
If they opt not to use the Speed Services door-to-door option, they would have to pick it up at the Post Office.
More worryingly is that many people won’t be able to use other couriers to get their prescribed medication delivered.
“The courier industry delivers hundreds of thousands of chronic medication shipments directly to people’s homes per month,” Marshall said.
“If those are under 1kg – as many of them are – then of course that would be impacted by it.”
When asked about the specific items which would be reserved to its services, the Post Office simply said that “all items below 1kg” formed part of its mandate.
“Exceptions are the items listed on SAPO’s prohibited guide, for example dangerous goods such as gunpowder,” it added.
Sub-1kg products which are often transported and delivered by courier services include:
- Bank cards
- Important financial and legal documents
- Vehicle licences
- Electronics like smartphones, wearables, routers, and dongles
- Computer components
- SIM cards
- Fast food
- Car parts
Many MyBroadband readers have suggested that courier companies could bypass the regulations by simply adding more weight to small packages to push them over the 1kg mark.
Marshall said, however, that they could not realistically consider this.
“You can’t do that as a rule,” he stated.
“We have to be compliant with the law and anything that artificially inflates things to circumvent the law makes it very difficult for us to perform.”
“New legislation will simply come in that will say that you can’t artificially inflate the weight of something,” Marshall said.