For three days, the international community of the regulators, operators and experts of the postal and delivery sectors gathered in the beautiful city of Split (Croatia) to discuss the challenges and the possible futures of the sectors in the 26th Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics, jointly organised by the Florence School of Regulation Communications & Media (FSR C&M) of the European University Institute and the Center for Research in Regulated Industries (CRRI) of the Rutgers Business School.
The dynamics at play in the postal and delivery markets, the evolution of the business models and the implications for regulation were intensely debated during the conference by the authors of the 35 papers presented and the participants to the event, enriched by the keynote speeches of Raphaël Goulet (DG GROWTH) and Jack Hamande (ERGP).
Contrary to the lay persons’ perception of the postal sector as being rather static, the disruptive changes and pressures brought by the digitalisation of communications and the subsequent process of e-substitution on the one side, and by the liberalisation and growing competition fuelled by the rise of e-commerce on the other, have set off creative responses and experimentation in the sector. The papers presented at the conference revealed a varied panorama where, beyond the attention for the improvement of existing services, both new services based on existing networks and resources and a growing diversification into new areas of business are being deployed. The conference gave also the opportunity to discuss digitalisation, big data and e-government as opportunities for postal operators, which can facilitate the digital transition and participate in the design, with public actors, of digital tools and solutions responding to evolving users’ needs. In this respect, several contributions focused on “last mile” delivery in urban contexts and on the possibilities to optimise it, for example learning from cooperative models applied in other network industries.
The event, which encompassed both cross-cutting themes and national focuses, also addressed consolidated topics in postal and delivery economics such as the quality of service, mail demanding modelling and regulatory challenges. The role and efficiency of the “compensation fund” as a tool for universal service obligations (USO) financing and the challenges associated with the measurement and stimulation of the quality of services have been topics of intense sessions, providing participants with useful insights in light of the upcoming revision of the European Postal Directive. A plenary session on competition tools in postal regulation focused on the implications and challenges of converging markets for market definition in postal sector and on the possibilities offered by market studies, enabling competition authorities to use compulsory processes to gather information outside the context of a traditional law enforcement investigation, to the postal sector.
To conclude, as Paula Gori and Pier Luigi Parcu highlighted in their paper “Postal Operators a ground based online platforms?” postal operators are demonstrating a noteworthy resilience against the profound shocks which have impacted the sector in the last decades and might be in a good position to transform these disruptions into opportunities in the near future. The 26th Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics has certainly confirmed the liveliness of the sector and of the community of specialists who deal with it, setting the conditions for an equally exciting next edition, which will take place in Spring 2019 in Dublin (Ireland).