The Postal Services Directive (97/67/EC) established a regulatory framework for European postal services. The universal service obligation (USO) is the core of the postal services directive. In line with the principle of subsidiarity and acknowledging the differences in the postal markets of EU countries, the directive gives flexibility to EU member countries, allowing them to adapt elements of domestic postal services to their particular needs.
The universal service obligation (USO) is the core of the Postal Services Directive (97/67/EC, amended by Directives 2002/39/EC and 2008/6/EC). This is the requirement that letters and parcels should be delivered to each home or business premises, on 5 days each week, throughout each EU country (with exemptions).
In particular, the postal services directive
- defines the minimum requirements of the universal service to be guaranteed by each EU member
- has fully opened the sector to competition
- lays down the principles of authorisation procedures for provision of postal services
- defines the tariff principles applicable as well as the transparency of the accounts of the universal service providers
- establishes the setting of quality of service standards for national and intra-EU cross-border services
- encourages technical harmonisation in the postal sector (see standardisation in the postal sector)
- establishes internal and external complaints procedures for all users of postal services
- requires the establishment of independent national regulatory authorities
- establishes rules for the financing of any net cost of the universal service in the event that a net cost arises and represents an unfair financial burden
- foresees regular ‘application reports’ (see below) to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the postal services directive
- the postal services directive also established the EU Postal Directive Committee, which consists of representatives of EU countries’ national ministries and serves as a scrutiny body for the application of postal legislation and for the improvement of quality of service. The committee meets twice a year. Committee documents are available by searching the Comitology Register using the full name of the committee ('Committee for application of the legislation concerning common rules for the development of the internal market of Community postal services and the improvement of quality of service')