Reinventing the Postal Sector in an Electronic Age
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Reinventing the Postal Sector in an Electronic Age

Edited by Michael A. Crew and Paul R. Kleindorfer

This compilation of original essays by an international cast of economists, regulators and industry practitioners analyzes some of the major issues now facing postal and delivery services throughout the world as competition from information and communication technologies has increased.
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Chapter 14: The UK Service Obligation: What Do the Public Think and How Do They Value It?

Rob Sheldon and Alison Lawrence


* Rob Sheldon† and Alison Lawrence‡ 1 BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES This chapter discusses a project undertaken in 2007–08 into consumer views on the Universal Service Obligation (USO). The project was commissioned by Postwatch which, at that time, was the consumer body for postal affairs in the UK. The overall objective of the research program was to assess whether the USO, undertaken currently by Royal Mail, fulfills citizen needs and expectations and is sustainable over the long term, given the increasing prevalence of alternative ‘postal’ services (for example, email and other entrant providers) and changing citizen habits. The current USO, formulated in June 2004 and extended in June 2005, requires Royal Mail to provide universal postal services in six areas:1 ● ● ● ● ● ● Priority and non-priority mail services (letters and packets) weighing up to 2 kilos (Royal Mail’s First and Second Class mail and bulk mail services) Non-priority service for parcels weighing up to 20 kilos (Royal Mail’s standard parcel service). Registered and insured service (Royal Mail’s Special Delivery and Recorded products). A range of support services to ensure the security and integrity of the mail (Royal Mail’s re-direction, Keepsafe, Poste Restante, certificate of posting and business collections) International outbound service (Royal Mail’s international public tariff and international signed-for products). Bulk mail services (Mailsort 1400 and Cleanmail – both offering First and Second Class options). The research reported here identified the needs of specific customer groups, including different sizes of business and customers located in rural as opposed to urban areas. In particular, it...

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