Industry to meet with ACCC and fed govt over stamp price

Kellie Northwood is set to meet with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the office of the federal communications minister next week to continue an industry push to stop a proposed stamp increase by Australia Post from $1 to $1.10.

The ACCC is examining Australia Post’s proposal to increase the Basic Postage Rate (BPR) from January 2020 to ensure its continued viability with the competition body releasing an issues paper into the matter with submissions due by September 13.

Northwood, the chief executive officer of The Real Media Collective and representative of an industry coalition from the the print, mail, media and publishing sectors which rely on postal services for distribution, is railing against the price hike which she says risks the continued viability of the sector and thousands of Australian jobs.

On the front foot: The Real Media Collective chief executive officer Kellie Northwood readies for postage price fight

Since 2016 postage prices have dramatically risen with PreSort, bills and letters rising by 56 per cent, Print Post which mails subscriptions publications like magazines, increasing by 28 per cent. Promo Post has jumped 50 per cent and charity mail went up 25 per cent, Northwood said.

Northwood said she is looking forward to meeting with representatives from the ACCC and the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to further the case of why ongoing price rises are untenable.

“With the ACCC as a mediator it is a good time to make our case,” Northwood told Sprinter.

“The ACCC has already contacted us directly to sit down with them as has the minister and that is good movement that we are getting with them approaching us. It is good that they know we have concerns with this.

“There are a lot of steps in this process and what we are doing is starting at the very first step rather than coming into the discussion at the end so that is what is really positive. We are at the forefront and we have met with the CEO of Australia Post twice about this issue so we have been very much involved early on although we still have a lot of negotiations to go.”

In addressing Australia Post’s argument for the price rise, Northwood said it was somewhat misleading to blame the service’s reduced profitability on the letters segment.

“Australia Post’s position fails to address the monopolistic model that its Letters business operates, which provides a solid infrastructural advantage to their Parcel and E-commerce businesses. The reporting of the Letters business does not take into consideration the latent capacity from which this provides opportunity for parcel delivery via the Postal network, a strong competitive advantage from other parcel distributors,” she said.

She also points to Australia Post’s investment  into electric delivery vehicles and e-commerce solutions which have also impacted the result.

“Industry does not suggest Australia Post shouldn’t continue to invest and grow, however to argue that the reason for the decline in profitability over the past twelve months is due solely to Letters does not consider all elements of the business.”

She added it is too important to ignore the need to balance the performance of a government asset against the government’s broader obligation to the people of Australia and the negative effect these price rises have on business.

The Real Media Collective runs the Secretariat for the Keep Me Posted campaign that lobbies for Australians to have the right to choose how they receive their bills and statements without
penalty.

Northwood comments, “We know Australia is experiencing a significant digital divide, with the most vulnerable Australians being impacted. Australians who prefer paper mail are being
stung by the banks, telcos and energy companies when being charged for their paper bills, and now by Australia Post when they buy a stamp to return payment or other
communications. Given Australia Post’s active involvement and support of Keep Me Posted, this approach to pricing defies logic.”

“Our industry, and those represented in the Industry Coalition, employ over 251,000 Australians – we are the largest manufacturing industry employer in the country – and this
approach from Australia Post will be detrimental to Australian jobs. Last year the Industry Coalition called for pricing stability, annual price increases and for Australia Post to engage in
a meaningful and commercial manner with industry. Despite these requests being supported by the former Minister’s Office, Australia Post has continued to not address these calls from
the Industry Coalition, rather issue significant price increases in a post-election window without consideration or meaningful consultation,” she said.

Northwood and the coalition that was formed last year which includes ADMA, Fundraising Institute of Australia, Australasian Paper Industry Association, Australian Forest Products Association and Visual Connections, has vowed to continue advocating for Australia Post price forecasting to allow the industry to manage price increases.

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