Compliance with laws and regulations is an important precondition when executing our strategy. Due to the nature of our business and size of our company, we operate in an environment with many laws and regulations to comply with. These regulatory requirements are constantly developing, just as our business is. In this section we explain the most relevant regulatory requirements, the developments and potential impact thereof on PostNL.
The Dutch postal market has undergone fundamental changes in recent years. Since 2005, mail volumes have decreased by more than half, and the decline is set to continue. At the same time, over the last few years e-commerce has grown. Below we discuss the impact regulation is having on the sector, on labour and on PostNL.
After the state secretary of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy cleared the acquisition of Sandd by PostNL in 2019 based on Article 47 Competition Act, this decision was annulled by the court of Rotterdam based on litigations from several postal parties in 2020, after which the state announced it would appeal the court ruling. In April 2021 the state secretary took a new, more substantive decision with additional conditions for PostNL. In June 2022 the decision was annulled on appeal by the CBb. PostNL continues to respect the licensing conditions which have been laid down by the state secretary. In the CBb ruling, the CBb remarked that this ruling does not in any way imply an opinion on the lawfulness of ACM's decision. PostNL has filed a pro forma appeal against ACM’s decision in October 2019. During the Article 47 procedure, this appeal had been suspended. The appeal has now been continued after the Ruling of the CBb in June 2022.
On 30 March 2020 the then state secretary of Economic Affairs and Climate published its proposed amendments on the Postal Law to the Dutch Parliament. The discussion in the parliament was put on hold due to the legal proceedings on the concentration of PostNL with Sandd. Despite the ruling of the CBb on the procedure in June, the debate is still on hold. The Minister wishes to reassess certain aspects of the proposed amendments after talks with stakeholders, mainly access conditions, before proceedings will continue. The possible changes of the Minister are expected during 2023.
The evaluation of the universal service was published in May 2022. Some recommendations from the study have already been addressed in the proposed amendments for the Postal Act. On two topics, the Minister announced a follow-up: organising a more active dialogue with stakeholders and exploring options for a future-proof and less complex tariff regulation.
The increase in volumes due to the concentration of PostNL with Sandd and the one-off volume increases in consumer post due to the Covid-19 pandemic have a lasting positive impact on stamp prices. However, the formulas in the Ministerial Decree do not allow PostNL to take into account these exceptional circumstances and (using these volumes for forecasts) would lead to fluctuating prices. Therefore, in 2021 and 2022, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate changed the Ministerial Decree 2009, to facilitate moderate price trends in subsequent years.
On 1 January 2023 the minimum wage was increased by 10 percent. This increase has a significant impact on PostNL's labour costs. Furthermore, a legislative initiative to harmonise the hourly basis on which the minimum wage is calculated on a 36-hour work week was adopted in February 2023. This legislation, which will cause an additional rise of our labour costs, is expected to be implemented in 2024.
The Postal Decree 2009 prescribes a next-day delivery level of 95% for consumer mail, funeral announcements and medical mail. PostNL is required to report these scores yearly to the ACM. Not being able to meet the 95% quality requirement results in a potential financial exposure to an ACM fine.
For the years 2019 and 2021 procedures were ongoing in 2022. Over 2019, PostNL realised a score of 94% for consumer mail and ACM imposed a fine of €2 million (paid in 2022). PostNL appealed the decision at the court of law Rotterdam. In December 2022 the court ruled to dismiss the appeal. PostNL will appeal the decision at the CBb.
For the year 2021 PostNL realised a score of 94% for consumer mail. Extreme weather conditions in February and the Covid-19 pandemic during the year impacted our service. PostNL proposed a correction for these factors to ACM. ACM did not conclude its assessment in 2022.
For the year 2022, the quality score for consumer mail was 91%. Our quality levels were strongly affected by the tight labour market across the country throughout the year. A shortage of labour impacted our operations, mostly within mail delivery. There was also an impact from extreme weather conditions. The 95% target for medical mail and for funeral announcements was met.
PostNL is in regular dialogue and collaboration with the Dutch labour inspectorate throughout the year, discussing developments in labour regulations and inspections both within PostNL and among its delivery partners, to which we outsource some operational activities.
The Dutch labour inspectorate has found several breaches of the Foreign Nationals Employments Act (Wet Arbeid Vreemdelingen) at a few of PostNL’s delivery partners. Despite the fact that PostNL is not the legal employer of the employees concerned, the Dutch labour inspectorate also holds PostNL accountable as a result of the chain of responsibility. During the course of 2021 and 2022, PostNL implemented further improvements in the check-in process of new employees of delivery partners and started entry checks at several large locations. Additionally, PostNL implemented digital log-in steps for all drivers and will continue and improve developments in this area.
PostNL has taken notice of an agreement within the Belgian government regarding changes to the Postal Law. Further details are not yet available, but we will closely monitor the implementation of these changes.
The labour inspectorate in Belgium filed several criminal cases against (among others) PostNL Belgium regarding alleged breaches of applicable social laws and regulations. Meanwhile, the investigative judge has initiated a criminal investigation into PostNL. The first court session took place in September 2022 where the court decided to postpone the case until April 2023. PostNL has filed an appeal against this postponement. We regularly review the compliance of delivery partners on several relevant social laws.
In 2022, the European Commission undertook a market development study of the postal services sector, covering sector developments between 2017-2021. The study was published in January 2023, and will be used as input for a forward-looking prospective study of the sector, building on previous reports and considering the latest developments.
This new study will provide a forward-looking assessment of the challenges to the postal sector and will look at the sector from a wider perspective and consider numerous aspects, such as users' needs, financial and environmental sustainability, employment in the sector, new market players and business models. It will also further analyse the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine in areas of great relevance for postal operations. Results of the forward-looking study are expected in 2024.
In 2022, the EU agreed upon a Directive that sets a regulatory framework with minimum norms which should be used by Member States when setting their minimum wages, aimed at stimulating collective bargaining. The goal is to create more social ascendency within the EU.
In 2022, the EU adopted the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. This legislation puts new reporting obligations on companies from 2025 onwards. The new rules include more detailed reporting requirements and ensures that large corporations and listed small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must report on sustainability issues, such as environmental, social, human rights and governance factors.
In February 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal for legislation regarding corporate due diligence. This directive will impose a duty of care on companies with regard to the impact of their activities, those of their subsidiaries and those of their business relations within their value chain (suppliers and customers) on fundamental human rights and on the environment. The proposal for a directive will most likely impose an obligation on the board of management to take this impact into account in their actions and specifically to ensure that their business model is in line with the Paris Agreement target (1.5°C). This legislation will most likely be finalised in 2023.
EU Taxonomy is a classification system established to clarify which investments are environmentally sustainable, established in 2020. In this way, it should create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, help companies to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation and help shift investments where they are most needed.
The European Commission is now in the process of drafting the second delegated act. On 9 March 2022, the Commission adopted a Complementary Climate Delegated Act including translations of the preceding, including, under strict conditions, specific nuclear and gas energy activities in the list of economic activities covered by the EU taxonomy.
The European Union is implementing a new customs pre-loading and pre-arrival security and safety programme, ICS2.0. The new ICS version will increase the capability of safety and security risk assessments for shipments from non-EU countries to EU countries and shipments from non-EU countries transiting through the EU.
ICS2.0's first release date became effective on 15 March 2021, where Postal Operators were obliged to submit an Entry Summary Declaration. Release II is scheduled on 1 March 2023, with air-carriers required to fulfil the obligations of ICS2.0. On 1 March 2024 the other transport modes need to follow.
During the last UPU Congress it was decided that an Extraordinary Congress would be organised in 2023 to specifically focus on proposals regarding the opening of the UPU to wider postal sector players. Preparations for these proposals are currently taking place.
Discussions on how far such an opening should go are contentious. They range from mere access, to supporting IT and other UPU products and services, to access to USO elements such as delivery and remuneration systems and/or decision-making powers in the governance structure of the UPU. Proposals will have to be finalised by the second quarter of 2023. The Extraordinary Congress will be held in Saudi Arabia in October 2023.