Members' Research Service By / January 20, 2016

Postal services in the digital age

Written by Balazs Hopp The EU postal sector has undergone significant changes in the past several years. Today, postal service…

@ nanuvision / Fotolia
Written by Balazs Hopp
Postal services in the digital age
@ nanuvision / Fotolia

The EU postal sector has undergone significant changes in the past several years. Today, postal service providers are confronted with the growth in e-commerce: new technologies make shopping online more convenient and therefore increase the number of packages and parcels conveyed by postal operators. While parcel deliveries are increasing, letter volumes have fallen substantially. These tendencies require a different postal infrastructure as well as different skills and patterns of employment for employees.

In 1997, the First Postal Services Directive established a regulatory framework for European postal services. The purpose of EU policy in the postal sector has been to gradually complete the single market for postal services and to ensure that efficient, reliable and high-quality postal services are available throughout the EU at affordable prices. The first Directive aimed to improve domestic and intra-EU postal services by addressing the low quality of service and efficiency; the lack of customer focus, choice and innovation; limited cooperation between operators; and ongoing state subsidies. The Second Postal Services Directive 2002/39/EC , among other amendments, reduced the price and weight limits for the reserved area, thus reducing the scope of the monopoly of national postal operators. The Third Postal Services Directive 2008/6/EC , introduced the legal basis for the accomplishment of the internal market for postal services by providing a last legislative step in the process of gradual market opening.

In November 2015, complying with the obligation set in the Postal Services Directive, the European Commission presented the fifth report on the application of the Postal Directive. The report, reflecting on the evolution of the sector, highlights the increased importance of parcel deliveries and pays special attention to the technological-infrastructural and social -employment changes generated by the recent developments.

The Commission announced in the Digital Single Market strategy that it will work on improving regulatory oversight in this sector and that new targeted measures addressing cross-border parcel delivery will be proposed in the spring of 2016.

This dossier gathers some key sources aiming at illustrating the EU postal sector as well as new trends and challenges the sector is facing, focusing on parcel delivery, e-commerce, postal technologies and infrastructure.


2015 IPC Global Postal Industry Report / International Post Corporation (IPC), 2015 The report contains a broad range of analyses across key areas, from megatrends and strategy, to financial performance and corporate responsibility, to competition and innovation.

Main Developments in the Postal Sector (2010-2013) / Wik Consult, 2013 The reports summarise developments in the sector pertaining to implementation of the regulatory framework, quality of postal service, economic and social issues, employment, and technological changes.


Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of the Postal Services Directive / European Commission, 2015 This document complements and integrates the fifth report on the application of the Postal Directive.

The Assessment of EU postal sector policy during the Second Barroso administration (2010-2014) / European University Institute, 2014 This paper assesses the EU postal sector policy of the second Barroso Commission from 2010 to 2014. The analysis focuses on three main areas: implementation of the Third Postal Directive; fostering e-commerce and parcel delivery; and enforce its State aid framework in the postal sector.

Parcel delivery and e-commerce

European Parcels Market Insight Report 2015 / Apex Insight, 2015 [abstract only] The report covers eight countries in depth: Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.

Achieving High Performance in the Post and Parcel Industry / Accenture Research and Insights, 2015 This research focuses on how digital could be the new powerhouse for post and parcel organisations.

Europe’s CEP Market: Growth on New Terms / ATKearney, 2012 This paper highlights the current state and future direction of the European courier, express, and parcel (CEP) industry. The study focuses on the scheduled express and standard network businesses.

E-commerce and delivery – A study of the state of play of EU parcel markets with particular emphasis on e-commerce / 2013, Copenhagen Economics Copenhagen Economics has been commissioned by DG Internal Market to provide an assessment of the state of play of the EU parcel market with particular emphasis on ecommerce. This study is focused at the intersection of parcel (and packet) delivery and e-commerce issues.

The Economic Impact of Express Carriers in Europe / Oxford Economics, 2011 This report sets out the impact of express carriers on the EU27 economy.

Postal technologies and infrastructure

“Developing a quality postal service in the digital age” project / PostEurope, 2014 This report focuses on the social-employment impact of the evolutions in the sector. It analyses inter alia the reductions in headcount and the diverse employment models.

Évolutions technologiques, mutations des services postaux et développement de services du futur / Ministère du Redressement Produktif / Pipame, 2013 [FR only] In this study, two dynamic transformations were analysed, both resulting from development of new technologies: The first concerns new uses and new modes of consumption and trade. The second looks at changing traditional boundaries between postal logistics and distribution on the one hand, and between proximity and communication services on the other.

Measuring postal e-services development / Universal Postal Union (UPU), 2012 This study reveals the current trends in the development of electronic services in the postal sector worldwide. It defines, classifies and assesses, for the first time, the electronic services offered by the posts.

Stakeholder views

Public consultation on cross-border parcel delivery / European Commission, 2015 The purpose of this public consultation was to consult all interested parties on the main issues and possible areas for improvement that could enhance cross-border delivery services. This webpage gives access to the contributions submitted by retailers’, organisations’ and public authorities’ opinion.

Price transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcels delivery, taking into account possible regulatory insights from the electronic communications sector / Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) – European Regulators Group for Postal Services (ERGP), 2015 The Joint Opinion outlines the powers that the competent national regulatory authorities should have to monitor cross-border parcel delivery and to intervene in this market regarding price transparency for European deliveries, including for prices of small shipments, if problems are identified and seen.

Realising Europe’s potential: e-commerce and the postal operators / International Post Corporation (IPC) – PostEurope, 2015 In this paper postal operators underline their role as an integral part of the overall e-commerce experience. They refer to the vast range of services they provide to meet the needs of all customers, embracing online and mobile technologies to ensure competitive and convenient services across Europe.

From Recovery to Prosperity A five year European policy framework Recommendations for policy-makers from the European express delivery sector / European Express Association (EEA), 2014. The Express Sector Association highlights his critical role in assisting the EU in its efforts. It emphasizes that the sector has the growth potential in the era of e-commerce and global value chains to greatly support the EU’s economic mission.


Postal statistics database / European Commission The data is collected annually from 33 countries that participate in the data collection exercise on a voluntary basis, including the 28 EU Member States, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

The UPU’s statistical database provides a dynamic overview of postal development in each country. It contains data from over 200 countries or territories and includes approximately 100 indicators of postal development, grouped in 12 chapters. The data is collected annually from all UPU member countries. The results for 2014 are the most recent statistics available at present (January 2016).

Postal service statistics – universal service providers 2004-2011 / Eurostat, 2014, Statistics Explained This article takes a look at European postal statistics from 2004 to 2011 covering universal service providers.

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  • Thank you for writing this article, it was really useful information and needed to be stated. I work with I Post Parcels and we have to deal with shipping laws and customs all over the World. In fact, for customers, we’ve written several guides showing what to do with each country. I’ve included a link below if you’re interested:

    The point is, I thought this was really useful and look forward to the changes which this could bring in parcel delivery.

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