SINGAPORE: Parliament on Monday (Apr 5) passed a Bill proposing changes to laws on postal services, meant to facilitate the deployment of a nationwide parcel locker network.
Plans to set up about 1,000 locker stations under such a network were announced in March last year, in a bid to support the growth of e-commerce and the resultant rise in parcel deliveries.
The first batch of up to 200 smart locker stations will be rolled out by April, while the entire network is set to be ready by the end of 2021.
The amendments to the Postal Services Act will allow the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to establish, install, operate and maintain this locker network.
They will also allow IMDA to appoint a network operator – which in this case, will be a fully-owned subsidiary of IMDA, Pick Network.
“This will ensure the neutrality of the network, and also allow it to be freely accessible to the industry and all consumers,” said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann in Parliament.
ACCESS TO SPACE AND ENFORCEMENT POWERS
Another change to the law will provide for access to selected public spaces and facilities to support the deployment of the parcel locker network.
IMDA had previously said the locker stations would be rolled at spaces such as HDB estates, public transport nodes and community centres, for instance.
The amendments also outline offences relating to the network, while giving IMDA enforcement powers to deal with them.
For instance, if any item in the lockers is suspected to be a threat to public security or health, police and authorised IMDA officers will have the power to search the lockers and seize the item.
It will also be an offence for any person to place a prohibited item, as specified under the amended act, in Pick’s lockers, Ms Sim said.
IMPROVING LAST-MILE DELIVERY
Separately, another change will allow industry players’ improved access to letterboxes for the delivery of non-letter items.
This move aims to “level the playing field for the parcel last-mile delivery market”, Ms Sim said.
Currently, SingPost – the only public postal licensee – is required to offer wholesale access to other postal licensees, such as DHL or Asendia, in delivering their letters to letterboxes. This is based on regulated terms and conditions.
With the change, such regulated wholesale access will be extended to delivery service providers, such as Ninja Van or Shopee, for the delivery of non-letter items to letterboxes.
Ms Sim said this will ultimately provide consumers and the industry with more choices in the receipt and last-mile delivery of parcels.
Another amendment to the law will enable IMDA to regulate this wholesale access, “to ensure charges are fair, and that consumers will ultimately benefit”, she added.
CONCERNS OVER SECURITY AND INCLUSIVITY
In debating the Bill, several MPs, such as Patrick Tay (PAP-Pioneer) and Darryl David (PAP-Ang Mo Kio), raised concerns over the security of the locker stations.
Risks include scenarios where hazardous items are placed in the lockers, or where the parcels inside lockers are tampered with, they said.
In response, Ms Sim said there are already laws in place dealing with mail security, but authorities will also “guard against mischief and tampering in the parcel locker setting”.
“We are working closely with (the Ministry of Home Affairs) and (the Singapore Civil Defence Force) to develop security guidelines and requirements to ensure that the locker design and parcel handling workflows meet required safety and security standards,” she said.
She added that as a deterrent, each Pick locker station will have two CCTV cameras for round-the-clock surveillance.
MPs such as Joan Pereira (PAP-Tanjong Pagar) also asked about how less digitally-savvy groups, such as elderly citizens, would be able to use the network.
Ms Sim said: “We believe that seniors who are able to make purchases online are also very likely to be digitally ready to use the network.”
Nevertheless, she said there will be digital literacy measures in place, such as the inclusion of a segment on Pick Lockers in IMDA’s Seniors Go Digital programme.
Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) also sought clarification over long-term plans for Pick and whether it would be profit-oriented, subsidised by IMDA, or “spun off like SingPost was”.
Ms Sim said that while the focus is first to establish operations, authorities intend for Pick "to become a well-functioning part of the ecosystem”.
“We do believe there are certain gaps in the market that do need to be plugged, so that the previous inefficiencies that we have described will then be eliminated.
“But we do not intend for this to be done at the cost of, or at the expense of long-term subsidies,” she said.
She added that the Pick team is thus working to ensure that adoption by postal players will be sufficient “to create the kind of economies of scale to make this project a success”.