Government waves through massive shakeup of German postal system

Government waves through massive shakeup of German postal system

The Bundestag has passed a landmark reform to the German postal system, the first major overhaul since 1997. As well as watered-down delivery targets, the reform will bring more post office branches, better conditions for postal workers, and potentially higher postage costs. Here’s a look at what’s changing. 

Why does Germany’s postal system need a reform? 

The German parliament last week waved through a major reform to the laws governing the country’s postal system. Although postal services in Germany are privatised, as a so-called universal service they are governed by strict requirements set by the government, to guarantee a basic standard of service and remain competitive. 

These requirements were last laid out in 1997, when the internet was just in its infancy and most communication was done by letter. Clearly, a lot has changed in the meantime, with email and instant messaging taking the baton from letters; at the same time, however, the popularity of online shopping is causing a boom in the volume of parcels being shipped. 

Lawmakers in Germany have therefore been arguing for a long time that postal law needs to be updated to match the needs of the 21st century. The long-awaited reform - which was passed by the Bundestag on Thursday last week and should get the Bundesrat’s approval in July - is meant to help Deutsche Post reduce costs, increase reliability, and become more environmentally friendly. 

What is changing with post in Germany?

The headline change of the reform is that Deutsche Post’s delivery targets are being watered down. The rationale behind this is that, with letters losing their status as the most important form of communication, they no longer need to be delivered so urgently. 

Currently, Deutsche Post is required to deliver at least 80 percent of its letters on the next working day, and 95 percent within two working days. In future, that deadline will be changed to 95 percent of letters reaching their recipients within three working days, and 99 percent in four working days. Practically, that means that the postal service will be a lot slower. Anyone who wants a letter delivered quicker than this will have to pay for the more expensive priority delivery. 

The six-day delivery period will remain in place, meaning that deliveries will continue to be made on Mondays, despite some rumours that the postal company was considering cutting the number of delivery days

Thanks to these longer delivery targets, Deutsche Post will be able to do away with night flights for transporting mail, helping it to boost its green credentials. Night flights were actually already scrapped at the end of March in anticipation of the new law. 

Is the cost of posting a letter going up in Germany?

Regarding the cost of stamps, the new law will not automatically make postage more expensive. The Act only contains a framework for calculating maximum prices, which the Federal Network Agency uses to set price increases every three years. The last increase occurred in 2022, when the cost of posting a letter rose by 5 cents to 85 cents.

From January 2025, it looks likely that costs will rise once again. It’s not clear by how much, but the coalition government has said that a standard stamp should not cost more than 1 euro. 

More post office branches 

The new law has also placed emphasis on establishing post office branches nationwide - for instance with kiosks inside other shops - especially in smaller towns and villages. Deutsche Post will continue to be bound by the requirement to have a strong branch network that saturates all areas of the country. 

Finally, the law also considers the rights of workers in the postal industry, stipulating additional rules for the carrying of heavy parcels, and tightening up regulations governing the use of subcontractors in the industry. For instance, subcontractors will be required to record their working hours, in order to ensure that employment laws are not being violated.

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Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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