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Postal services

Overview > Competition instruments

In parallel with liberalisation, the Commission applies the competition rules to the European postal services markets. The Commission acts under principles set out in the "Notice from the Commission on the application of the competition rules to the postal sector and on the assessment of certain State measures relating to postal services".

The Competition DG focuses on anti-competitive behaviour in the postal services markets, monitors State aid to the postal services sector, and also contributes to the development of State aid policy in this field.

DG Competition also enforces the Merger Regulation in the postal services markets with the aim of preventing effective competition from being hampered by merging companies.

See recent cases in the postal sector.

State aid

The goals of State aid control in the postal sector are: to ensure a level playing field for postal operators, to promote competition between them, and to ensure that high quality postal services can continue to be delivered at affordable prices.

Under Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, State aid is defined as any aid granted by a Member State or through State resources which distorts competition by favouring certain undertakings and which affects trade between Member States. The basic rule is "no State aid".

However, aid necessary for an undertaking to perform a service of general economic interest like the post may be allowed under certain conditions. For example, Member States can compensate, but not overcompensate, a USP (universal service provider) for the net cost of the public service. Also, where postal incumbents - as a legacy of their past as State administrations - have to pay higher pension costs for civil servants, unlike their competitors, Member States can provide relief as long as it does not put the incumbents in a better position than their competitors.

Another challenge ahead is to ensure that competition develops in former reserved areas, where barriers to entry still remain. The Commission and national authorities will have to monitor closely the market behaviour of incumbents.

The Community Framework for State aid in the form of public service compensation, which entered into force on 31 January 2012 (IP/11/1571), defines the conditions under which public service compensation can be authorised. Among others, the compensation must not exceed the net costs of the undertaking of providing the public service. This aims to prevent undertakings from using public service compensation to cross-subsidise commercial activities. The rules established by the Communication comprise, in particular, a methodology to determine the amount of compensation, a requirement for Member States to introduce efficiency incentives in compensation mechanisms, the requirement to comply with EU public procurement rules and equal treatment of providers of the same service for determining compensation. Moreover, the Commission may require Member States to adopt measures to reduce the anticompetitive effects of certain compensations that present a particularly strong potential for distorting competition in the Internal Market.