PostNet, Post Office in legal showdown over packages weighing a kilogram or less
In November, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) informed PostNet that come Tuesday next week it may no longer courier reserved postal services as it did not have a licence to do so.
Icasa acted on a recommendation by the Complaints and Compliance Committee following a complaint lodged by the South African Post Office about PostNet also offering reserved postal services to the public.
The Post Office said it was the only entity licensed in terms of the Postal Services Act to courier packages weighing a kilogram or less.
In terms of the Postal Services Act, reserved postal services include all letters, postcards or any articles weighing a kilogram or less.
This would have meant that PostNet would, come next week, not have been able to courier items such as bank cards, cellphones or registered letters to its clients across the country. PostNet indicated that it would take Icasa’s decision on review, but at this stage it asked the court to suspend the decision that it may no longer courier these packages.
Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen suspended Icasa’s decision, pending the outcome of review proceedings.
PostNet said in court papers the Post Office has for long struggled to meet market demands, thus private entities such as PostNet have stepped in.
It was said that PostNet provides mailboxes to about 55 000 customers and has provided courier services in respect of a range of articles for almost 25 years.
PostNet said the Post Office only now turned to the Complaints and Compliance Committee to complain that PostNet’s conduct is unlawful in rendering reserved postal services and that they (the Post Office) are the only ones licensed to provide this service.
PostNet said if it had to cease these services come next week, its 55 000 customers will immediately be without postboxes.
It will also have to stop providing courier services regarding small items such as bank cards, books and cellphones.
It said as a matter of logic, this would also apply to all other courier companies such as DHL and FedEx, as the Post Office claimed it is the only entity licensed to courier these items on a daily basis.
PostNet said it cannot understand that it has for many years provided these services without any problem with Icasa only trying to stop the company now.
It said that if it now has to stop, so will every other courier company in the country.
PostNet said if it was to now stop couriering items of a kilogram or less, it would severely harm its business.
PostNet believed it had a good prospect of success if it took Icasa’s decision on review.
Icasa said it received the Post Office’s complaint in 2017 in which it was asked to investigate PostNet’s conduct in the reserved postal services market.
The Post Office complained that PostNet was encroaching upon its monopoly rights as the only licensee authorised to provide reserved postal services.
It was argued that PostNet previously only provided reserved postal services following an earlier agreement with the Post Office, but that agreement was terminated in 2002 already.
Besides, Icasa said, the Post Office paid it a licence fee of about R14 million a year.
PostNet on the other hand, does not pay a licence fee.
It only pays Icasa “a paltry” amount of R5 000 a year as a registration fee, the court was told.
Icasa further argued that the Postal Services Act came into force to ensure that the Post Office has the finances to fulfil its public mandate of rendering postal services at affordable and Icasa-approved tariffs.
The Post Office also operates in rural areas, while PostNet mainly operates in big cities, it was said.