Users needs of postal services in rural areas (PTS-ER-2019:19)


The postal market is experiencing rapid change. The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has the assignment to, inter alia, promote a successful, universal, high-quality postal service that is available to all users in accordance with the objectives laid down in the Swedish Postal Services Act, and shall continuously monitor developments and ensure that postal services fulfil the needs of society. In light of this, PTS conducts various studies to increase knowledge about the future needs for postal services of different groups. These studies shall, inter alia, serve as a basis for making decisions on changes to the universal postal service.

As part of this work, PTS has from consultancy firm A-focus commissioned a qualitative survey of users' needs for postal services in rural and sparsely populated areas and with a special focus on consignment of goods. The study is based on 40 interviews involving companies and private individuals who have operations/live in rural and sparsely populated areas, as well as 16 interviews involving representatives of organised interests.

In summary, the survey shows that the users in rural and sparsely populated areas are in general relatively satisfied with current handling of postal items. However, small companies lack the supply of rapid and cost-efficient parcel deliveries, mainly when unforeseen incidents occur. Both private individuals and entrepreneurs also demand increased coordination between parcel distributors, for example in terms of delivery point, more flexible delivery solutions and increased collaboration on transport. The users stated that suppliers sometimes have poor knowledge of the terms of delivery in rural and sparsely populated areas and may therefore underestimate the delivery time. The interviews also show that many users lack information about certain services offered. These include, for example, home delivery of parcels via the rural postman service and the extra service available to recipients with disabilities and/or who are older than 80 years.

As expected, the results of the survey confirm that the use of letters is on the decrease and is expected to decline even further. This applies to both private individuals and companies. However, there are still letters that are important and time-critical for recipients such as invoices, healthcare appointments, bank information and information from authorities. Users have also mentioned challenges relating to reliability, to letters that fail to arrive and to difficulties in knowing which postal operator is responsible for distributing which letters.

For the survey, the term “parcel” is defined as a consignment containing items/goods weighing up to 20 kg. Today, parcels are often handled in different ways by postal operators and parcel distributors, and the parcel market is perceived as an unstructured market with a lack of coordination by the interviewees in rural and sparsely populated areas. PTS is therefore working to promote increased co-distribution and the development of delivery solutions that are cost-effective and have a low environmental impact.

Many of the challenges raised in this study also apply to urban areas. However, the consequences are greater in rural and sparsely populated areas, especially for those who have a significant need for fast deliveries at a low price or are located at a distance from services. As society's needs for postal services change, the general level of service needs to be adapted accordingly. This may mean that postal recipients living in cities may have to walk a little farther to their mailbox, for the benefit of those living in the sparsely populated parts of the country who are already at some distance from the postal service.

In order to increase knowledge of user needs for postal services, PTS plans to conduct additional user surveys. In 2019, a study was conducted of the need for postal services of important social institutions and major senders, including how these are influenced by, for example, changing transit times and frequency of delivery. In 2020, PTS also plans to conduct a study relating to the need for postal services among groups with special needs, such as the elderly, persons with disabilities and persons living in digital exclusion. PTS is also organising an innovation competition in 2019 with the theme "From outside to the Internet" relating to solutions for digital inclusion.

PTS continuously works on studies to map out the future for distribution of postal services. This work is based on the opportunity allocated to PTS on 1 April 2018 to issue regulations on how to fulfil the requirement to distribute postal consignments within the universal postal service. The authority also investigates the legal premises for making changes in the frequency of deliveries under current legislation. This report shall be seen as one of several key supporting documents for the formulation of a universal postal service that meets the needs of society.