An Post sparks row with advice on how to avoid post office visits
AN POST has defended a letter the company sent to thousands of shops which details ways in which customers can "completely avoid" visiting their local post office.
Postmasters have now accused An Post of trying to drive away their business as fears grow about the future of the post office network.
The controversial letter was sent to around 3,000 shop owners who operate the so-called 'post point' outlets across the country.
These are outlets which offer a range of An Post services, including the payment of bills, and are located within newsagents and other retailers.
Post points are different from the newly established 'Post and Pay' outlets, which are being trialled in four Tesco stores before being rolled out by other supermarket giants.
The letter from An Post, seen by the Irish Independent, promotes a new service called 'PostPack' which has yet to be rolled out in post offices.
PostPack is a pre-paid plastic pouch which enables customers to send items securely by post for a flat fee of €5.
Under the heading 'Why recommend PostPack to your customers', the An Post letter states: "As PostPacks are pre-paid pouches, customers no longer need to visit the Post Office to weigh their packet. Instead, customers can just purchase PostPacks from your store and post them at their nearest Post Box, completely avoiding the need to weigh the item at the Post Office."
The Irish Independent was contacted by a number of postmasters and post point operators who claimed the letter promoted the driving of business away from post offices.
Independent TD Michael Healy Rae, who is also a postmaster, last night accused An Post of "cannibalising" the network.
"Why are An Post encouraging people to use products which allow them to avoid visiting a post office? Surely they should be pursuing avenues that ensure people do business with their local post master.
"This letter is not acceptable and I will be demanding answers," Mr Healy Rae, pictured, told the Irish Independent.
In a statement An Post rejected claims of trying to drive away business from post offices.
"This (PostPack) is aimed at growing the mail business not encouraging customers to avoid the post office," the company said.
"Initiatives such as this are essential to the future of our business and the wider industry."
The latest row comes after the Irish Independent revealed that Ireland's second largest wholesale network is planning to provide postal services.
BWG foods, which operates franchises such as Spar and Mace, has entered negotiations with An Post with the view to opening dozens of so-called 'Post and Pay' outlets.