The Universal Service Obligation

With the Universal Service Obligation (USO), the Dutch government aims to keep sending and receiving mail accessible to all citizens. By separate decree PostNL is the designated provider of the USO in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Universal Service Obligation (USO) includes addressed domestic and cross-border services and comprises the following: 

  • All letters of correspondence with a maximum individual weight of 2 kilogrammes. 
  • Postal parcels with a maximum individual weight of 10 kilogrammes (outbound maximum 20 kilogrammes). 
  • Registered and insured postal items.

The Dutch Postal Act 2009 limits the domestic USO to single piece addressed items as described above. International outbound bulk mail and parcels are also part of the USO. The meaning of ‘bulk’ in this context can be explained as ‘mass quantities’. For international inbound and outbound mail, the rules of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) apply to PostNL.

Regulatory conditions for the provisions of the Universal Service Obligation

The Dutch Postal Act 2009 requires PostNL as the USO provider to provide nationwide services and to perform a daily delivery round from Tuesday till Saturday, except on public holidays. There is also a requirement to deliver urgent medical items and funeral notifications on Mondays. At least 95 percent of all standard single rated domestic letters under the USO posted the day before must be delivered in 24 hours. Furthermore, PostNL is required to maintain a network of letterboxes and post offices for access by the general public. The Postal Regulation 2009 covers detailed tariff regulation, cost and revenue accounting, financial administration and reporting.

Accounting and other financial obligations

PostNL’s reporting obligations include a system for allocating costs and revenues to the USO. A financial report on the annual performance of the USO must be submitted to the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), accompanied by an assurance report by an independent auditor, to certify that PostNL’s financial accounting system complies with these obligations and is applied properly. 

Pursuant to the Postal Act 2009, a price cap applies to both USO letters and parcels meant to limit the return on sales (RoS) to 10%. For these purposes, the ACM first defined basic tariff headroom, based on the costs of the USO in 2014. Second, the ACM has to define additional tariff headroom each year, taking into account the development of the general Consumer Price Index, the development of USO volumes and, if applicable, an earlier exceeding of the RoS limit. 

Following the tariff headroom by the ACM, PostNL is allowed to set tariffs (within this headroom).

Financial Report Universal Service Obligation 2018

Requirements of the Universal Postal Service

On 1 January 2016, the amendments to the Dutch Postal Act 2009 and the Postal Decree 2009 came into effect. The Decree is an underlying regulation that elaborates on specific subjects in accordance with the Postal Act 2009.  

  • In residential areas with more than 5,000 inhabitants, a post box for public use has to be available within a range of 1,000 meters. Outside residential areas with more than 5,000 inhabitants, a post box has to be available within a range of 2,500 meters. 
  • At least 95 percent of Dutch residents must have a retail location available that includes our full range of services within a five kilometer distance. For citizens living outside residential areas with more than 5,000 inhabitants, at least 85 percent must have such a retail location available. 
  • We are required by law to let community organisations have a say in planned changes to the retail network.

Statement PostNL: A retail network fit for the future