SINGAPORE: Singapore is considering setting regulatory standards for the delivery of parcels and registered articles, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information (MCI) Sim Ann on Monday (Feb 11).
Her remarks, made in Parliament, come in the wake of complaints about missing mail from national postman Singapore Post (SingPost), which was fined S$100,000 last week for failing to deliver local letters on time in 2017.
Ms Sim also said that further regulatory action from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) can be expected, as it continues its review into SingPost's letter delivery performance for 2018 and beyond and investigates infringements under the Postal Services Act.
Ms Sim was responding to questions filed by Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah on, among other things, the number of complaints SingPost has received about missing mails in the past year and how many of these missing mail cases have been resolved.
The national postal service provider has been in the spotlight following a spate of service lapses, with the most recent involving the arrest of a postman who allegedly discarded letters into a rubbish bin.
In January, SingPost also apologised for “service deterioration” over a "tremendously busy" November-December period.
2018’S PERFORMANCE UNDER REVIEW
SingPost’s performance for letter delivery for 2018 is currently under review, said Ms Sim. A decision can be expected by the middle of this year.
Ms Sim also said that SingPost received 91 complaints about misdelivered and lost mail last year.
“SingPost has investigated each complaint, and has apologised to the complainant whenever there was a confirmed service lapse, and re-delivered mail that was found,” said Ms Sim, who added that IMDA has reviewed and decided to maintain its Postal Quality of Service (QoS) standards for letter delivery.
When it comes to the delivery of parcels and registered articles, SingPost is “unable to provide the specific number of complaints it receives on failed delivery notices”, said Ms Sim.
But there were eight such complaints submitted directly to IMDA last year and seven in 2017, she noted.
"We believe that there are likely to be more incidents which were not formally reported," she said.
"IMDA will pay attention to this area as well. It is now considering regulatory standards for the delivery of parcels and registered articles," she added.
“THOROUGH REVIEW” NEEDED
While SingPost has announced new measures aimed at beefing up standards – including the cutting back on advertisement mail delivery and improving staff remuneration – authorities believe that “a thorough review” of all operations and manpower remains necessary.
This “may take time before the gaps in SingPost’s service delivery are fully addressed”, said Ms Sim.
“The SingPost Board and management know there is hard work ahead, and have told us that they are committed to work together with my ministry and IMDA.”
She added: “SingPost’s Board and management agree with my Ministry and IMDA that a thorough review of its operations and manpower has to be made even as it takes immediate steps to remedy the service lapses.”
For one, SingPost “must make itself ready” for a new operating environment, which has seen the volume of parcels increase significantly on the back of e-commerce.
“As a result, it has to deliver 38,000 items daily which cannot fit into letterboxes and its postmen have to now conduct more deliveries for parcels,” said Ms Sim.
“This works out to an average of 35 to 45 doorstep deliveries per postman per day in Singapore’s urban landscape with many high-rise HDB blocks and condominiums, in addition to delivering letters to letterboxes.”
Given how the work of a postman has become even more labour intensive, Ms Sim stressed that the postal workforce must be treated fairly and be well-equipped to perform their job.
IMDA will provide support to SingPost in the training of postmen, re-engineering of delivery process, deployment of technological solutions and infrastructure upgrades where necessary, she added.
SINGPOST DOES NOT HAVE MONOPOLY: SIM ANN
Other MPs, including Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng and Jalan Besar GRC Denise Phua, also had questions, such as SingPost’s investments into its postal services arm.
Mr Ang asked if SingPost has been under-investing on its “cashcow” postal services segment as it diversifies its business, to which Ms Sim responded that these are issues that shareholders should hold the listed company accountable for.
She declined to comment further on the issue of under-investing, but said that the new measures announced by SingPost regarding its postal workforce are “indicative” of SingPost’s own diagnosis of the problem.
Dr Lee also had a string of supplementary questions which, among other things, asked how IMDA determined its financial penalty of S$100,000, whether fines can act as sufficient deterrents, and if there are plans to consider having more than one postal service provider in Singapore.
To that, Ms Sim replied that the IMDA takes into account factors such as whether there are repeated failures and the duration of the delays when determining the amount of fines.
She added that the authorities “completely agree that relying on fines is not sufficient”. While more regulatory action can be expected from IMDA in the coming months, other measures will need to be taken on the part of SingPost, such as the continued use of technology.
“We are glad to see that SingPost has owned the issue and announced steps in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Ms Sim stressed that SingPost does not have a monopoly on the delivery of basic letter services.
While SingPost is the only public postal licensee under the current framework, this market “has been opened up” and there are four providers licensed to deliver basic letters at the moment.
She did not elaborate who the providers are, but the IMDA website lists the four postal services operators as Asendia Singapore, DHL eCommerce (Singapore), World Marketing Group and SingPost.
The parcel delivery industry is also “very open and competitive segment” with many market players involved, Ms Sim said.
When asked by Dr Lee under what circumstances will SingPost’s license be revoked, Ms Sim replied that there needs to be an operator to “maintain the universal service obligations”.
These include the maintenance of postal boxes, issuing of stamps and meeting the obligation of delivering letters to and from anyone within Singapore – all of which are requirements that SingPost need to fulfil as the public postal licensee.
“This has to be given and I think that what we currently now have is a set of QoS standards to monitor the delivery of letters. As I've mentioned, SingPost is not immune to competition and IMDA will be monitoring this very carefully.”
Ms Sim added that she does not think the recent lapses warrant a licence removal but authorities “are very conscious of the pain points that consumers have reported, including pain points concerning services that are not covered by the QoS.”
“This is the reason why IMDA is also now considering additional regulatory standards.”