Austrian Postal System
Until 1 May 1996, Österreichische Post AG, as the Austrian postal service is called today, was part of the federal administration; then known as the Postal and Telegraph Administration (Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung - PTV), it was the responsibility of the Ministry for Transport. On 1 May 1996, the PTV was separated from the federal administration and reconstituted as a public limited company – Post- und Telekom AG (PTA). In the summer of 1999, it was divided into two companies, namely Telekom Austria AG (TA) and Österreichische Post AG. Unlike TA, Österreichische Post remains entirely in the hands of the Republic of Austria. Ownership rights are exercised by the Federal Ministry of Finance through the holding company Österreichische Industrieholding AG (ÖIAG). The role of postal regulator, on the other hand, is performed by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit).
The postal services can be divided into three categories:
- Monopoly services: letters weighing up to 50 grams (except mail to foreign destinations, which has been fully liberalised since 1 January 2003)
- Universal service: postal items (letters, newspapers, etc.) weighing up to two kilograms and parcels weighing up to 20 kilograms
- Services open to competition: All other postal services
Monopoly services are the sole preserve of Österreichische Post.
Österreichische Post is required to provide the universal service nationwide. Every other operator, however, is entitled to offer these services too in competition with the state-owned company.
Keen competition prevails in the parcels business. Besides Österreichische Post, all the major international parcels services operate in Austria, for example:
- United Parcel Service (UPS),
- Thomas Nationwide Transport (TNT),
- Deutscher Paket Dienst (DPD) and
- Federal Express (FedEx).
Competition to deliver newspapers by mail is also increasing. The daily newspapers in particular are establishing their own delivery networks. Besides newspapers and magazines, these networks are also used to deliver advertising material.
In accordance with the European directive of 1998, a regulatory authority, independent of the operators, has been established at the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. The main functions of the authority are:
- to authorise postage rates for the monopoly service;
- to authorise the general terms and conditions of trade for the monopoly service;
- to monitor the postage rates and general terms and conditions of trade for the universal service; these must be notified to the regulatory authority, which may veto them if they do not satisfy the minimum statutory requirements;
- to lay down ground rules for the universal service (number of post offices and post boxes, opening hours of post offices and transit times for letters and parcels);
- to verify compliance with transit-time requirements;
- to establish the principles governing the cost-accounting system of Österreichische Post.
From 1 January 2008, an independent regulator will be based at the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungsbehörde GmbH). The regulator will have the power to settle disputes and find solutions that are acceptable to all parties (users, interest groups and service providers).
The legal basis for the postal system in Austria is the European Postal Directive (Directive 97/67/EC, as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC). This directive was transposed into Austrian Law by the Postal Services Act (Postgesetz) 1998. The further liberalisation of the market in postal services will be effected in accordance with the prescripts of the European Union. 1 January 2009 has been set as the target date for full liberalisation of the market.