South African Post wants to stop other couriers from delivering packages under 1kg
In a shocking gesture, South Africa Post said it was the only entity allowed by law to process parcels between 0 and 1 kg. The organization recently reiterated a ruling by the country’s Complaints and Compliance Commission (CCC) against a private courier service known as Postnet in 2019. The ruling confirmed that in South Africa, only the country’s post office has the right to process such small packages.
Reserved postal services
1.Reserved postal services include –
(a) all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels and other postal items subject to the fixed mass or size limitations;
(b) issue of postage stamps; and
(c) the provision of collection boxes and addresses at the roadside.
3. Reserved postal services include all items described in headings 1 a) and 2 with a mass up to and including one kilogram or of a size which enables it to fit in a rectangular box of the following dimensions:
length 458 mm, width 324 mm, thickness 100 mm Cylinders with a maximum length of 458 mm and a thickness of 100 mm or with a mass of up to one kilogram are considered to be letters.
South Africa Postal Services Act 124 of 1998
Post offices have been around for a long time in most countries. The laws that established them are also quite old. They were created long before e-commerce was a thing. The global COVID-19 pandemic was also unimaginable when these laws were made. That power is reaffirming such archaic and monopolistic behavior is shocking. The post office should be operated on a commercial basis instead of having to rely on such unfair laws.
Zimbabwe’s Postal Services Act contains an almost similar clause, although ours makes much more sense:
(2) The provision of the following services is reserved exclusively for the Company from the date fixed, and the appropriate successor company from the date of transfer
a) the transport of letters with a mass of less than five hundred grams, with the exception of letters transported by a commercial courier service:
Provided that the operator of a commercial courier service does not charge less than the prescribed rate for the transport of such letters by the Company or the appropriate successor company;
Section 106 of the Zimbabwe Postal Services Act
It seems that local law is more permissive and limits the monopoly of the Post Office to letters rather than to “objects”. It also allows commercial operators to do the same things although it limits what they can charge to what the government charges. Fortunately, no one cares about letters anymore. For the past decade or so letters have come almost exclusively in the form of bills to households, but thanks to electronic invoicing even this is becoming a thing of the past.
Perhaps this is why South Africa Post is now keen to enforce its monopoly. Ecommerce is booming with more and more online giants like Makro, Takealot, Superbalist.com and others riding the wave. The struggling post office wants a slice of this cake and wants to eat it on its own.
This is sure to complicate things a bit when it comes to package management. No doubt the couriers will soon try to get around this arbitrary limit. They can start combining small packages into larger ones or just make sure all packages get past the all-important 1kg bar.
Some customers have already started reporting that sometimes small items such as smartwatches and headphones come in large, oversized packages. It could just be couriers doing their job to protect the items while in transit or it could be something else.