Trade Briefs

The South African Post Office (SAPO) versus PostNet – a setback for e-commerce in South Africa

The South African Post Office (SAPO) versus PostNet – a setback for e-commerce in South Africa

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16 Apr 2020

Author(s): Ashly Hope

The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa’s Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) found on 26 September 2019 that retail and courier service provider, PostNet Southern Africa, had contravened s15(1) of the Postal Services Act, in that it had operated a reserved postal service (transporting postal items of 1kg or less) without a licence. PostNet’s licence enables it to operate only in the unreserved sector.

This has the potential to be a major blow to the small, but fast-growing e-commerce market in South Africa and has the potential to impact on cross-border e-commerce. It also brings into question the ongoing rationale of the universal service obligation (USO) and in South Africa its accompanying statutory monopolies.

The CCC recommended that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) order PostNet to cease the illegal behaviour. The decision was issued 11 November 2019 and PostNet had 90 working days to comply. This meant the effective date was 17 March 2020. However, this was suspended by a High Court interdict obtained by PostNet on 7 March 2020. PostNet have formally applied to have the decision reviewed by the High Court and SAEPA will apply to be a co-applicant in the review proceedings.


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