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Complete opening of postal markets by 2011 and 2013
At the beginning of 2008, the EU approved the Third Postal Directive (2008/6/EG) stipulating the complete opening of Europe’s national postal markets. Accordingly, the last existing monopoly for mail items weighing up to 50 grams will be abolished in the near future, enabling alternative
providers to also expand their services to what has been a so-called “reserved area” up until now. Most EU member states, including Austria, will be required to completely open their national postal markets as of January 1, 2011, eleven EU member states first on January 1, 2013.

Biggest challenge: financing universal postal services
The Third Postal Directive stipulates that nationwide postal services must be ensured at acceptable prices and with a correspondingly high
level of quality even after the liberalisation of the letter mail markets. The following minimum standards are stipulated in the EU guidelines:
■ Home postal delivery on at least five working days per week
■ Acceptance, sorting and delivery of mail items weighing up to two kilograms
■ Acceptance, sorting and delivery of parcels weighing up to ten kilograms
■ Services for registered mail and valuable items
■ A network with postal pick-up and access points fulfi lling user requirements

Up to the present time, the provision of universal postal services has been financed by income derived from the monopolistic position on letters weighing up to 50 grams. After this last reserved area has been abolished, alternative providers will also operate in this segment, but are likely to primarily focus on heavily populated urban centres. In contrast, Austrian Post plans to continue delivering to every doorstep in Austria, thus fulfi lling the Universal Postal Services Obligation.

This raises the issue of financing cost-intensive postal services in rural areas, which up until now has been ensured by the national letter mail monopoly. The EU Postal Directive stipulates various possibilities. For its part, Austrian Post advocates compensation for universal postal services by means of a public equalisation fund.

Conversion into Austrian regulations creation of fair market conditions
The success of postal sector liberalisation will depend on the conversion of the EU Postal Directive into national regulations in the individual EU member states, particularly the introduction of suitable mechanisms to ensure the equal treatment of all market participants. In this regard, it will be necessary to amend existing regulations relating to the provisions of postal services in Austria, namely the Postal Act and the Universal Postal Services Obligation, as well as implement a series of accompanying measures.

In addition to the afore-mentioned compensation for the costs of providing universal postal services and stipulating transparent quality standards, fair competition also presupposes greater flexibility granted to Austrian Post in setting prices for its products and services. The experience gained by countries which have already liberalised their postal markets shows that new competitors not only focus on operating in
highly populated urban centres, but also primarily try to attract customers with large mail volumes. In order to remain competitive, Austrian Post requires increased pricing flexibility in the B2B-/B2C-business area.

In addition, Austrian Post must be free to select the optimal business model for its branch network by itself. In the interest of cost and service optimisation, the company must be able to exploit the advantages of alternative models, such as postal partner offices, in those cases where a company-owned branch cannot be operated in a profitable manner. This flexibility would make an important contribution towards ensuring the provision of postal services in rural areas.

At the same time, the legal framework regulating working conditions must also be changed. Due to the high percentage of civil servants (55%) in its workforce, Austrian Post is considerably less flexible than companies able to hire freelance employees. From the point of view of Austrian Post, a level playing field can only be ensured by a collective wage agreement applying to the entire postal sector, which
stipulates new and uniform regulations for the whole branch in respect to working conditions.

New regulations expected in 2009
Austrian Post is committed to ensuring nationwide postal services throughout the country and maintaining highquality service. On this basis, it submitted its ideas and demands in respect to the strategic reorientation of postal services in Austria to political decisionmakers. The new Austrian Government pledged to adopt new regulations in 2009.

Ensuring nationwide postal services

Compensation for costs of universal postal services
The costs of providing universal postal services, arising from the legal obligation imposed upon Austrian Post by the Universal Postal Services Obligation, are to be compensated by an equalisation mechanism in accordance with the EU’s Third Postal Directive.

Flexible pricing
Flexible pricing in the business customer segment is a prerequisite for securing the existing uniform tariffs for private customers on a longterm basis.

Flexibility of postal companies to choose the optimal operating model
Austrian Post must be entitled to freely select the optimal business model for its branch network in order to ensure the long-term provision of postal services to the population living in rural areas.

Uniform and transparent quality standards for all market participants
Consumers expect quality and transparency from postal service providers. Accordingly, it is essential to establish unifi ed quality measurement and control mechanisms for all market participants as well as to require the publication of results.

Fair labour conditions based on a collective wage agreement
Standard-working conditions are to be created on the basis of a unified collective wage agreement for the entire postal sector.