Rabbitte warns ComReg not to fine An Post €12m
COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte warned the telecoms regulator last night about imposing a fine of almost €12m on An Post for failing to deliver letters on time.
The semi-state mail firm has warned that the case may result in job losses among its 9,000 workforce and push up the price of postage for consumers.
Mr Rabbitte last night delivered a clear warning to ComReg about continuing with its High Court case against An Post for missing its next-day delivery targets over the past two years.
He told the Dail that the public was not complaining to TDs about delays in the next-day delivery of letters.
"No member wishes to see one state organisation engaged in litigation against another, especially in the midst of the critical financial crisis in which the country now finds itself," he said.
In 2004, ComReg told An Post it had to achieve a next-day delivery standard of 94pc for single-piece priority mail delivered within the State.
However, seven years later, An Post was nowhere near that target. By the third quarter of last year, it had only achieved 84pc next-day delivery.
ComReg announced that it was taking action last February with the aim of imposing an €11.9m fine for missing these next-day delivery targets in 2010 and 2011.
Mr Rabbitte does not have any direct power in the matter because ComReg is an independent regulator.
But a government source last night said it was important for him to make his views known to the telecoms regulator.
Mr Rabbitte said yesterday that he had a strong concern about the ongoing commercial position of the An Post.
"The reality is that the core mail business has suffered a major fall-off and that has impacted seriously on the company's revenue flow," he said.
Any major fine could push An Post, which handles 2.5 million items of mail every day, from a profit-making company into the red.
An Post reported a profit of €2.2m for last year, which was down from €5.8m in 2010.
An Post said last night that it could not comment on Mr Rabbitte's remarks due to the impending legal proceedings. ComReg also said it could not comment for the same reason.
Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris said that he had never heard any TD receiving a complaint about its next-day delivery of letters.
"It is mind-boggling that at a time when An Post is attempting to diversify and to provide an even greater service, ComReg effectively is attempting to impose a penalty on the company that certainly will not improve the services it provides," he told the Dail yesterday.