The South African Post Office is heading to court to block courier companies from delivering packages weighing 1kg and less.
In a ruling handed down in late 2019, communications regulator Icasa found that PostNet had contravened the Postal Services Act by transporting and delivering such packages.
As the only operator of this kind in South Africa, the Post Office has the exclusive right to provide delivery services for all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels, and other postal articles up to and including 1kg.
PostNet was initially ordered to stop delivering all packages weighing 1kg and less by 17 March 2020. However, it secured an interdict which allowed it to continue to deliver these packages until the full challenge was heard in the Gauteng High Court.
The Post Office, Postnet and the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) are now set to head to court in a move that could have ramifications for the entire courier industry in South Africa.
Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka told BusinessDay that the regulator would give its support to the Post Office as it was following the letter of the law, which allowed private couriers to only deliver food items in the 1kg or less category.
“Icasa’s mandate is to implement what the law requires, and we are doing exactly that,” he said.
“There are exemptions that deal with businesses that do not fall under postal services. Uber Eats, Mr Delivery, etc are such businesses. Obviously, one cannot expect Sapo to be delivering pizza to a consumer,” he said.
Major consequences for couriers
Speaking to MyBroadband, SAEPA chief executive Garry Marshall said that many of the products currently carried by private couriers fell into the sub-1kg category which the Post Office is laying claim to.
SAEPA represents courier companies like FedEx, DHL, UPS, CourierIT, RAM, and Globeflight.
“It just covers such a broad range of commodities across the board,” Marshall said. “The most dramatic items that people can relate to are medications, cell phones, and electronic equipment.”
He provided the example of someone working from home who would need to order a small router. If the Post Office wins the case, a customer would need to have it shipped through them.
If they opt not to use the Speed Services door-to-door option, they would have to pick it up at the Post Office.