Less attention has been reserved for the postal sector, although delivery services represent one of the target areas of intervention for the development of a Digital Single Market in the EU.
But even if the postal sector is not considered ‘sexy’ enough to grab headlines, it’s an important component of a functioning Digital Single Market where online commerce continues to penetrate deeper into the lives of European citizens. For this reason it’s also increasingly an area where tech companies themselves are looking to invest.
For example, Uber is piloting a new merchant delivery program in the U.S. which takes it beyond passenger transport into logistics, providing express delivery options for shoppers.
Meanwhile, IT companies are starting to explore the application of the internet of things to delivery services in an effort to completely reinvent them. This could mean that postal operators could enable carriers to link every sorting office, truck, driver, mailbox, parcel and letter to an intelligent network so that it knows what, when, how and where the customer wants to receive it.
The application of digital technology to the postal sector will result in services that are more customer driven, intelligent and responsive. However, for innovation to thrive, the European market has to be competitive and open to the entrance of new companies that bring with them new investment and new ideas.
Competition provides significant benefits to consumers, incentivising the incumbent postal operator to become more efficient and to improve its quality of service. However, in Europe, despite the completion of the liberalisation process under the Third Postal Directive (2008/06/EC), we’re still some distance from a true competitive market. Differences in the implementation and scope of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) have inevitably increased distortions of competition between private and national operators.
The Commission’s focus on realising the benefits of the digital economy is an opportunity for consumer groups and alternative postal providers to make the case for deep and lasting liberalisation that creates the conditions for a European market which is innovative, competitive and open. Consumers will get better services and Europe’s growing online commerce sector will have a modern and innovative delivery infrastructure to support its retail operations.
The creation of a Digital Single Market is an opportunity for the Commission to assess the implementation of existing EU legislation in the postal sector and agree the necessary changes that will enable the growth of cross-border e-commerce. Failure to do so will act as a considerable brake on achieving the Commission’s ambitious digital objectives.