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Workshop Paper / Transport

2nd European Postal Regulation Summary: Postal Regulation in the Context of a Growing E-commerce

Author(s): FINGER Matthias, BRAND-WEINER Ian, BERT Nadia

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The present document summarises the content of the presentations delivered during the forum as well as the ensuing discussion.

Presentations were delivered by representatives of many different types of stakeholders, including the European Commission, postal operators, postal authorities, associations of stakeholders, as well as by knowledgeable academics. Each of them offered his/her view on the state, challenges and status of postal services in the context of growing e-commerce market, based on the following initial questions formulated by the organisers:

  • What are the challenges in e-commerce and how do they affect postal and delivery services? 
  • Can regulation keep up with markets and communication behaviour changes? 
  • How can European posts become a key driver in the growth of e-commerce? 
  • How can regulators or the European Commission become a key enabler?

In the last few years, postal sector has been changing more rapidly than ever before. Both retailers and consumers are increasingly shifting their habits from the need of traditional postal services to the necessity of operations related to e-commerce. Therefore, e-commerce has become one of the most important business pillars for both postal operators and their competitors, as well as for regulators.
The discussion touched upon many topics. At the beginning, a thorough analysis of consumers’ choices in different countries was drawn up, and an attentive look to the postal operators’ activities was given. Moreover, the role of regulation and regulators in the evolution of e-commerce was discussed, and interesting issues have emerged. First and foremost, regulation should not undermine the development of a sector that is still changing a lot and that is still characterised by too many uncertainties for regulation to work well. With regard to this, it was noted that the role of transport and delivery is only one aspect of the overall e-commerce ecosystem, so it would be probably useless, even more than unfair, to impose regulation upon these aspects and not upon others such as consumers protection and systems of payment. Also, it was highlighted that unintended consequences of regulation have to be taken into account. In particular, postal operators are bound by long lasting norms, whereas new comers on the market are not. This is likely to drive to a regulatory failure of the system. Overall, most of the participants agreed that e-commerce, as a tool for welfare, should be supported. However the support has to be neutral, in other words not discriminate traditional retail.