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New checks on mail to guard postal stealing

To protect consumers' interests, India Post proposes to amend the archaic Indian Post Office Act, 1898, for applying the Consumer Protection Law, reports Anil Anand.

india Updated: May 04, 2007 17:57 IST
Anil Anand

Whether it is

sarkari

postal service or private couriers, they will soon be accountable under a proposed law -- if they lose your letter or steal parcels.



Waking up to the necessity of protecting the consumers' interests when couriers are a booming business, India Post proposes to amend the archaic Indian Post Office Act, 1898 for applying the Consumer Protection Law on these services.



A new draft bill containing this provision and other measures to regulate the multi-crore courier industry is now awaiting the Union Cabinet's nod.



Officials say the bill has taken into account suggestions from 85,000 respondents --who included American Chamber of Commerce in India, DHL Express and Blue Dart Express.



Firstly, the new bill will make it mandatory for courier operators to get their companies registered at a requisite fee. Currently, there is no official record of who is in the business.



Fee structure provided in the draft India Post (Amendment) Bill 2006 has been retained. This was first reported by the

Hindustan Times

. For big service providers, operating nationally or internationally, the registration fee will be Rs 10 lakh with an annual renewal fee of Rs 5 lakh. The registration fee for medium and small operators (within India) will be Rs 25,000 with an annual renewal fee of Rs 10,000.



The courier companies with an annual turnover of over Rs 25 lakh will also pay Universal Social Obligation (USO) fee. The small and medium sector has, however, been exempted from this fee.



Diluting a provision in the earlier draft, India Post has to treat as its "exclusive domain" articles weighing up to 150 grams. Earlier, it had wanted that bar for articles weighing up to 300 grams.



Private couriers cannot accept to deliver articles weighing up to 150 grams unless someone is willing to pay a higher cost. This could be five times more of the letter mail tariff in case of ordinary mail and 2.5 times the cost of speed post or EMS in case of urgent or express mail, an India Post official said.



Express Industry Council of India, the apex body of over 3000 courier service providers in the country, has vehemently opposed this monopoly provision and has demanded that it should be based on the lowest weight slab ( letter mail) and not EMS. "The amendment in the archaic law is necessary. But it should be progressive and not retrograde," EICI chairman RK Saboo told the

Hindustan Times

.



On his part, explaining the rationale behind the monopoly provision in the 150 gram category, the official said similar practices were being followed in many countries including USA, UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, Denmark and Switzerland to ensure that the common man does not have to pay more for his mail.



The fine-tuned draft also provides for an independent mail regulatory authority to create a level playing field for private players and the India Post. Saboo felt the consumers are "adequately protected" due to stiff competition. "The consumers can seek redressal from the consumer courts," he said.



The EICI has also rejected the idea of renewal fee and restrictions on the Foreign Direct Investment. The renewal fee would bring back the inspector raj while FDI cap is against the spirit of the liberalization regime, Saboo claimed.



However, earlier proposal for a new dispute adjudication mechanism has been withdrawn. Instead, this function will now be performed by the existing TDSAT to curtail both the time and cost factors.

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