NIK about (un)availability of postal services

In 2015, the OEC President appointed the Polish Post (Poczta Polska S.A.) as the designated operator which was to provide universal postal services guaranteed by the state in 2016-2025. The designated operator renders these services under the principles set out in the law and it is paid mainly by clients. By providing guaranteed services, the Polish Post is obliged to operate at least five days a week and maintain post office branches and postal infrastructure all over Poland, also in underpopulated areas. This activity generates high costs which leads to losses in some cases.

The situation is complicated because the Polish Post as the designated operator is obliged to provide services in a way which generates costs. On the other hand, this is a commercial company so it aims to make profits. The net cost financing mechanism was to solve that issue. The OEC President set up a compensation fund based on contributions paid by postal operators. If the revenue on universal services provided in a given year did not cover the costs of providing those services, compensation from the compensation fund would be paid. The mechanism does not work, though - the Polish Post has not received any compensation for 2013 until present.

The shrinking market of paper letters has a decisive impact on decreasing revenue of the Polish Post. This is a Europe-wide trend, and in Poland this negative dynamics reaches several percent a year. At the same time, the e-commerce development contributes to an increase in the courier services market. The Act on Electronic Deliveries will create a new situation in the postal logistics market. Under this Act, public entities will send and collect electronic mail. The government has already adopted the draft Act.

Selected groups of postal services in Poland in 2015-2019. Letters – 2015: 1468 million, 2016: 1386 million, 2017: 1353 million, 2018: 1327 million, 2019: 1246 million. Postal parcels - 2015: 27 million, 2016: 25 million, 2017: 26 million, 2018: 23 million, 2019: 25 million. Courier service: 2015: 216 million, 2016: 264 million, 2017: 308 million, 2018: 369 million, 2019: 441 million. Source: NIK’s analysis based on data from reports of OEC President

The Polish Post failed to deliver postal parcels from most categories as part of the universal service on time.  

The OEC President monitored timeliness indicators for postal parcels delivered as part of the universal service. He did not initiate any administrative proceedings in this case for five years, though.

The results of independent studies of Poczta Polska S.A. vary from the ones made on OEC President’s request. According to the operator, differences resulted from the size of the study sample. The timeliness of delivering postal parcels differed in various regions. The Polish Post justified delays in parcel deliveries with staff shortages.

Within five years covered by the audit, Poczta Polska S.A. raised prices of basic universal services, saying that the reason was an increase in costs, especially salaries. Prices went up from over 4% to nearly 89%. The minimum salary in that period increased by 29%. The OEC President did not take any effective measures to prevent a spike in prices of postal services.

The number of post office branches held by the Polish Post is as required by law. This, however, does not stand for equal access to postal services Poland-wide. The audit showed that locally the number of post office branches may be insufficient. In 2015–2020 (1st half), the Polish Post reduced the number of its post office branches to 5.5%. As a consequence, there were much more than 6 thousand inhabitants per one open post office branch. In 2015–2020, the percentage of post office branches adapted to the needs of disabled persons dropped as well.

The access to postal services provided by the Polish Post was not controlled by the OEC President. Under the Postal Law, the OEC President is not obliged to control the number and distribution of post office branches of the designated operator. However, the same law gives the OEC President wide powers to verify compliance with the provisions on postal activity.

NIK positively evaluated timeliness of reviewing complaints by the Polish Post. In five years, Poczta Polska S.A. paid over PLN 37 million damages to its clients. More than half of admitted complaints was related to lost parcels.

The audit did not find any significant violations of the safety of postal traffic and secrecy of correspondence. In 2015-2019, the safety indicator of domestic mail services went up by 31%. As for international mail services, it ranged from -34% to 67% in individual years. In the course of inspections in post office branches and logistics departments, NIK auditors found irregularities which posed a threat to postal traffic and secrecy of correspondence. The most frequent undesired incident was the loss of a postal parcel. Due to the failure to perform or improper performance of universal domestic mail services in 2015-2020, the Polish Post paid the total of nearly PLN12 million. The Postal Law does not define any minimum standards related to the safety of postal traffic and secrecy of correspondence and leaves those issues to providers of postal services. In the audited period, the OEC President controlled the Polish Post only once in terms of protecting the secrecy of correspondence.

Inspections in post office branches did not indicate any significant breaches of customer service standards. A lot of minor irregularities having impact on the customer service quality were identified, though. For instance: customers were not provided with information on universal services, some devices in customer service rooms were out of order and 12 of 42 self-service kiosks used by the Polish Post were not fully functional.

Recommendations

to the Minister of State Assets (responsible for communications) to:

  • take measures to amend the Postal Law to improve the quality of universal services, among others by:
    • implementing measurable standards of universal services quality;
    • extending control powers of the OEC President over the designated operator in terms of providing universal services, within the framework of the Entrepreneurs Law Act of 2018.
  • ensuring the change of ordinance on the conditions for providing universal services to make sure the number of post office branches in a given region meets the real demand;  
  • ensuring the change of ordinance of the Ministry of Administration and Digital Affairs of 2013 on the methodology of establishing maximum annual fees for universal services to adapt the method of calculating them to the services which change throughout the year.

to the President of the Office of Electronic Communications to:

  • make sure the designated operator ensures required quality of universal services in terms of timeliness, price affordability and access, as well as accessibility to postal services for disabled persons;  
  • improve supervision over measures taken by the designated operator, considering the protection of consumers’ interests a priority.

to the President of the Polish Post (Poczta Polska S.A.) to:

  • locate post office branches of the designated operator, considering the local demand for postal services, guaranteeing comparable access to post office branches all over the country;  
  • ensure a uniform standard of customer service in post office branches, considering the needs of disabled persons.

Article informations

Date of creation:
09 September 2021 14:02
Date of publication:
09 September 2021 14:02
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
09 September 2021 15:16
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
A postbox of the Polish Post and hands in nitrile gloves of a person throwing a letter in the postbox © Adobe Stock

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