Litigation: Post Office, Icasa fight for small parcel market

As a court battle looms, SA’s communications regulator is backing the push by the SA Post Office (Sapo) to stop private courier companies from delivering small parcels, a move which a Business Day report says could devastate a R20bn industry. ‘Icasa’s mandate is to implement what the law requires, and we are doing exactly that,’ spokesperson Paseka Maleka said, adding the law allowed private couriers to only deliver food items in the 1kg or less category.

If Icasa and the Sapo have their way, consumers and companies that trade over the Internet could find themselves deprived of an alternative to a crisis-hit company whose inefficiency has seen it lose customers to the private sector. ‘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,’ Maleka said. Private courier firms have approached the courts to challenge Sapo’s interpretation of the law. Interested parties, including Icasa, are set to file papers in the High Court this month.

Icasa agrees with Sapo’s interpretation of the Postal Services Act, which says that only a licensed postal services operator may deliver letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels and other postal items with a mass of up to 1kg. The Business Day report says Sapo is the only licensed firm in that category. In 2018, Sapo lodged a complaint with Icasa against private courier company PostNet, saying it was providing services it was not legally mandated to provide. In a ruling affecting all private players, the regulator’s complaints and compliance committee ruled in favour of Sapo and issued PostNet a notice to stop providing the 1kg-and-under service by March 2020. PostNet approached the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) for an urgent interdict pending the main review application to challenge Icasa’s ruling. The court granted the interdict pending the main court challenge, which is yet to be heard.

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