Big changes coming for mail delivery in South Africa – including possible rebates for delays

 ·26 Mar 2024

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has gazetted a notice of its intent to review mail conveyancing regulations in the country to bring them up to date with changes in technology and to introduce better protections for consumers.

The review will also specifically cater for changes in the postal services market to reflect the growth and development of the postal services operations and to recognise the role played by e-commerce services which has shifted the market.

Icasa published a discussion document on the conveyance of mail in 2023, looking for input on the effectiveness of the Conveyance of Mail Regulations, 2009.

Response to the discussion document found that the regulations are inefficient in addressing the current mail conveyance challenges for the following reasons:

  • Definitions are insufficient and do not cater for the entire process of mail conveyance.
  • There is no adequate protection of consumers against loss and damage of goods and the availability of insurance facilities.
  • There is no provision for personnel security when handling prohibited and dangerous goods.
  • There are no provisions that deal with disaster management.
  • There are no provisions for rebate payable to the sender where there has been a delay in the delivery of an item/article without a notification for such delay.
  • There are no provisions that incorporate technological developments such as digital register and publishing of all necessary information online.

“The challenges highlighted in the submissions point to the fact that, amongst other things, there is a need to provide for enhanced consumer protection measures in the form of relief to consumers in cases where conveyors fail to comply with regulations,” the authority said.

“The regulations also fall short in terms of specifying recourse in case of loss, theft, fraud, damages of mail, including notification to sender in cases of delay.”

Icasa said it would review the regulations and address them in the following ways:


Definitions

Icasa said it will consider definitions of terms currently used in the process of mail conveyance but are not yet defined in the regulations.


Legal Possession and Ownership of Mail

Icasa will consider rephrasing the wording on legal possession and clarify the difference between legal possession and ownership of mail.

The clarification will incorporate the whole service cycle as defined by the UN’s Universal Postal Union (UPU).


Consumer Protection Measures

Icasa said it will review the regulations and require conveyors to have remedies for offences related to loss, damages to and delay of mail.

Required remedies may include developing and maintaining a compensation policy which addresses offences related to the collection, handling, and delivery of mail.


Mail Safety and Security

Icasa said it will reinforce the current provisions of the regulations on security of mail and strengthen measures that operators must follow.

These include the safety of the physical infrastructure where mail is kept, minimum security standards that extend to the personnel handling mail and mail processing operations, and the implementation of a track and trace system for all mail items except letters.

It will do so by incorporating relevant UPU guidelines and standards not yet in the regulations.


Dangerous and Prohibited Goods

Icasa will continue to prescribe the list of prohibited and dangerous goods and require conveyors to keep an updated record of dangerous and prohibited goods found in their postal network in line with the Laws of the Republic and International Standards.

In addition, the authority will update schedule B to be in line with market changes and request that records be made available to the authority upon request.


Cybersecurity

The Authority will consider UPU and Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (Crasa) guidelines on cybersecurity and require mail conveyors to ensure that they have minimum standards of addressing cybersecurity crimes.

This includes how customers’ data is protected in line with national laws.


Penalties

Icasa said the current format used in determining penalties in the regulations provides for a broader scale of penalties that are sufficient to serve as a deterrent to non-compliance.

The Authority will assign relevant fines to new regulatory provisions, it said.


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