The post office has fewer branches than required. According to the Federal Network Agency, there are currently around 140 "unoccupied mandatory locations" in Germany. According to an ordinance, there must be at least one branch in every municipality with more than 2000 inhabitants. With a population of 4,000 or more, a branch in connected residential areas may not be further away than two kilometers. Swiss Post does not meet these requirements at more than a hundred mandatory locations.
In most cases, this is about rural areas. However, in relation to the approximately 13,000 stationary facilities that Swiss Post operates nationwide, the proportion of vacant locations is small.
No retail, no branch
Today, post offices are practically only operated by external service providers who, in addition to their regular business, also have a post office counter and sell stamps or accept parcels. These are often supermarkets and kiosks. There are also around 800 Postbank finance centers that offer postal services. There are only two larger branches that belong to the Bonn group itself: one is in the German Bundestag and the other in the Bonn company headquarters.
A Post spokesman points out that the company covers about 99 percent of all mandatory locations with branches. "In the few locations where this isn't the case, there are often no longer any retail outlets at all, meaning there are also no shops that could offer universal postal services on our behalf."
In such cases, the Post tries to offer a stationary facility with its own staff, "although the customer frequency of such branches is very low," said the spokesman.
Vending machines only sometimes an alternative
As the supervisory authority, the Federal Network Agency monitors whether the private company Deutsche Post is complying with the statutory provisions. With regard to the vacant locations, a spokesman for the authorities says: "We are in regular contact with Deutsche Post AG." Many of the affected locations are "only temporarily vacant within the framework of the usual and expected fluctuation".
In addition to the branches, according to the Post, there are also around 10,500 parcel shops, 2,000 stamp sales points and 11,000 Packstations, i.e. machines for accepting and delivering parcels, in Germany. However, these locations play no role in fulfilling the obligation to issue a regulation.
In addition, such alternatives are mainly to be found in urban areas. So when the only post office in a village closes, there are often no other local post offices.
Soon fines as a sanction?
The post has been criticized for some time because of problems with delivery: In the past year, the staffing level was so thin in some places that letters sometimes arrived late or not at all. The number of consumer complaints to the Federal Network Agency roughly tripled in 2022 compared to 2021. In order to increase the pressure on Swiss Post, the regulatory authority is calling for the possibility of sanctions against Swiss Post, i.e. fines or penalties.
This could be regulated in the postal law amendment, because the traffic light coalition wants to revise the outdated provisions. The law was last fundamentally revised in 1999. The Federal Ministry of Economics intends to present key points soon, as can be seen from a response from the ministry to a parliamentary question from the Union faction. A first draft of the bill is expected to be available later this year.