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PostNL may not put rival postal companies at a disadvantage

Dutch postal company PostNL gave preferential treatment to its own customers over other postal companies. This is prohibited under the Dutch Postal Act. Discounts offered to PostNL’s customers must therefore also be offered to rival postal companies. In order to force PostNL to end this violation, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments on it, with a maximum of EUR 2,500,000.

As regulator on the postal services market, ACM already took this decision back in 2013. ACM has carried out additional studies since, and recently took a decision on the objections filed by PostNL. Following a court ruling, both of these decisions were published today. PostNL had requested the court to remove the obligations from the original decision. The court turned down this request.

Different conditions for rival postal companies

Since 2013, PostNL has used a condition that put primarily rival postal companies at a disadvantage: PostNL was no longer content with the practice of companies delivering the mail of multiple senders as a single batch. PostNL was of the opinion that it cost more effort and resources to process such batches. However, PostNL failed to substantiate this claim. PostNL asserted incorrectly that these postal companies abused its discount scheme.

Henk Don, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Mail is mail. Invoking the rule against multiple sender addresses in a single batch of mail is too drastic a measure. By imposing the condition of a single sender address, PostNL improperly makes a distinction between its own customers and rival postal companies. PostNL is obviously free to set its own conditions and tariffs. However, these need to be applied fairly. With said condition, the smaller postal companies are unable to take advantage of PostNL’s discount scheme, whereas PostNL’s own customers can.”

Smaller postal companies use PostNL’s network

Smaller postal companies lack networks of their own to deliver mail throughout the Netherlands five days a week. That is why they rely on PostNL’s national network for mail that they are unable to deliver using their own networks. This has been a result of the liberalization of the business mail market, as laid down in the Dutch Postal Act in 2009.


May 24, 2018: The District Court of Rotterdam has ruled on appeal in this case. For the complete text of that ruling (in Dutch), please refer to this page.