Postal Services Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Implementation

Article 11a (first limb) is implemented by clauses 30(2) and 47 and Schedule 3 to the Bill. Clause 46 confers power on OFCOM to impose general access conditions on postal operators, which can require access to be given by a postal operator to its infrastructure or to services within the scope of the universal service. An operator may be required to maintain a separation for accounting purposes between different matters for access purposes. Schedule 3 sets out further provision as to the types of access conditions which may be imposed on an operator, including terms of access, price controls, use of accounting methods, non-discrimination and transparency and provides for resolution of access disputes.

Article 11a (second limb) is implemented through clauses 30(2) and 37 and Schedule 3 to the Bill. Clause 37 confers powers on OFCOM to impose access conditions on the designated universal service provider requiring it to provide access to its postal network, or to maintain a separation for accounting purposes between matters relating to access to its postal network. Schedule 3 sets out the types of access conditions which may be imposed and provides for resolution of access disputes.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Article 12: Tariff principles and transparency of accounts

Objective

Article 12 provides that member States must take steps to ensure that tariffs for each of the services forming part of the universal service are affordable and that prices are cost oriented and give incentives for a universal service provision. The tariffs must be such that all users independent of geographical location and in the light of specific national conditions, have access to the service provided. Article 12 goes on to provide that member States may provide for a uniform tariff and may maintain a free postal service for the blind or partially sighted.

The requirement for transparency of accounts requires member States to take steps to ensure that tariffs for each of the services forming part of the universal service are transparent and non-discriminatory and that if special tariffs are applied the principles of transparency and non-discrimination are applied.

Implementation

Clause 32 provides that OFCOM must include in its universal service order (which sets out what services it considers should be part of the universal postal service in the United Kingdom) a service of conveying postal packets at affordable prices in accordance with a uniform public tariff. Clause 35(3) provides that a designated USP condition may make provision as to the tariffs to be used for determining prices in accordance with which the universal service is provided. Clause 35(4) provides that OFCOM must seek to ensure that the prices are affordable, take account of the costs of providing the service and that the prices provide incentives to provide the services efficiently.

The requirement for transparency of accounts (Article 12 fourth and fifth indent) is implemented by clause 38 of the Bill. This confers on OFCOM the power to require the universal service provider to maintain separate accounts between different matters and comply with rules for determining costs and allocating costs, and may require the publication of such accounts and other related information as OFCOM consider appropriate and to submit to regular independent audit of its compliance.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Article 14: Accounting of universal service providers

Objective

This requires member States to ensure that universal service providers keep separate accounts to distinguish between services and products within and outside the universal service. It requires consistently applied and objectively justifiable cost accounting principles. It sets requirements for the use of different methods for the allocation of costs to be carried out by the accounting systems and sets further requirements for verification of compliance and information provision.

The Article may be disapplied in certain limited circumstances where there is no state assistance and competition in the market is fully effective.

It provides that member States may introduce appropriate accounting separation where there is a compensation fund.

Implementation

Article 14(1) to (7) are implemented by clauses 30(2)(c) and 38 which confer powers on OFCOM to impose conditions on the universal service provider to maintain accounting separation in a way OFCOM direct and comply with rules in connection with that separation and cost identification and orientation as well as requirements for independent auditing and for the publication of such accounts and of the cost accounting system used. Further, Clause 54 of, and Schedule 8 to, the Bill implement information requirements which may include accounting information.

Article 14(6) and (7) are implemented by a combination of provisions. OFCOM will have the information on cost accounting systems through the above information requirements and clause 55(2)(e) provides for information to be provided in pursuance of Community obligations.

Article 14(8), (9) and (10) do not require implementation unless member States decide to do so in accordance with the conditions specified.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Article 15: Financial accounts of universal service providers

Objective

This requires the financial accounts of all universal service providers to be drawn up, submitted to independent audit and published in accordance with relevant Community and national legislation on commercial undertakings.

Implementation

This provision appeared in the original Directive, was implemented by the UK and has not been amended by Directive 2008/6/EC.

Responsibility

Secretary of State.

Articles 16, 17 and 19: Quality of services

Objective

Article 16 provides that member States must ensure that quality of service standards are set and published in relation to the universal postal service.

Article 17 provides that member States must notify their quality standards for national services to the Commission. National regulatory authorities must ensure that annual independent performance monitoring is carried out on universal service providers.

Article 19.2 provides that in accordance with Article 16, universal service providers must publish an annual report of the monitoring of their performance.

Implementation

Clause 32 provides that the universal postal service order must set out the standards to which any service specified under it must comply. OFCOM is required to notify the Commission of the universal postal service order.

Clause 36 deals with publication of information about performance. It provides that a “performance condition” must include provision requiring the designated universal service provider to publish annually an independently audited performance report.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Article 19: Users complaints

Objective

This Article places an obligation on member States to ensure that transparent and inexpensive procedures are made available by all postal service providers for dealing with users’ complaints. The procedures must enable the disputes to be settled fairly and promptly. Member States must ensure that cases where users’ complaints to universal service providers have not been satisfactorily resolved may be brought before the competent national authorities. Member States must also ensure that universal service providers publish information on the number of complaints and how they have been dealt with.

Implementation

Clause 48 provides that OFCOM may impose a consumer protection provision on postal operators requiring them to assume specified liability in respect of specified loss and damage and to establish and maintain procedures in respect of (amongst other things) the handling of disputes and the resolution of disputes with users. These procedures must be easy to use, transparent and effective and otherwise facilitate the settling of disputes fairly and promptly. These procedures must also be free of charge to the users.

Clause 49 provides that amongst other things the consumer protection condition must require postal operators to publish information about the number of complaints made about them and the way that complaints were dealt with.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Article 22: National regulatory authorities

Objective

This Article requires member States to designate one or more national regulatory authorities that are legally separate from postal operators. The tasks of the authorities must be published in an easily accessible form. Member States must ensure that users or postal service providers affected by the decision of a national regulatory authority has the right to appeal to an appeal body independent of the parties involved.

Implementation

OFCOM is an independent regulator, legally separate from postal operators. The Bill sets out the tasks of OFCOM in relation to postal services. The Bill is accompanied by Explanatory Notes.

Decisions of OFCOM on price control matters are appealable to the Competition Commission and all other decisions of OFCOM are appealable to the High Court, in accordance with the usual rules on judicial review.

Responsibility

OFCOM and the High Court.

Article 22a: Provision of information

Objective

This Article requires member States to ensure that postal service providers provide all information, in particular to the national regulatory authorities, including financial information and information concerning the provision of the universal service, to allow the authorities to ensure conformity with the Directive and for clearly defined statistical purposes. Postal service providers must provide information promptly. A national regulatory authority must give reasons justifying the request for information. The national regulatory authorities must provide the Commission with relevant information, where requested.

Implementation

Schedule 8 provides that OFCOM may require a person to provide information they consider necessary for carrying out their functions. This information must be provided within such reasonable period as may be specified by OFCOM.

Clause 55(2)(e) provides for information to be disclosed in pursuance of Community obligations.

Responsibility

OFCOM.

Provisions not requiring implementation

Articles 8, 10, 11, 13, 18, 20 and 21 do not require implementation.

 
 
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Prepared: 22 May 2009