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Summaries of EU Legislation

Postal services in the EU

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Postal services in the EU


Directive 2008/6/EC - completing the EU's internal market for postal services



It sets out the rules that EU countries must implement to complete the EU's internal market for postal services.


Universal service obligation

EU countries must:

  • ensure that the general public are permanently provided with a postal service of a specified quality anywhere in their country at an affordable price and, as such,
  • ensure that contact and access points are able to cope with the needs of their users and that universal service is guaranteed at least 5 working days a week (including 1 collection and 1 delivery per day)

Each EU country must ensure that universal service provision meets the following requirements:

  • a service guaranteeing compliance with the essential requirements,
  • an identical service to users under comparable conditions,
  • available without any form of discrimination,
  • no interruptions or stoppages except in exceptional circumstances,
  • evolving in response to technical, economic and social developments and to the needs of users.


The directive prohibits national governments from granting or maintaining any exclusive or special rights to establish or provide postal services.


EU countries can set up authorisation procedures, including individual licences to ensure that postal services comply with the essential requirements (including confidentiality of correspondence and network security when transporting dangerous goods) and that universal service is provided.


Prices for each of the services comprising universal service must be:

  • affordable and permit all users, independent of geographical location, and, in the light of specific national conditions, to access the service
  • cost-oriented and give incentives to provide an efficient universal service.

Quality of service

Service standards for universal service must be set and published in order to guarantee a postal service of good quality. Standards focus on delivery times and on the regularity and reliability of services.

For services operating between EU countries, the directive requires that:

  • 85 % of postal items of the fastest standard category must be delivered within 3 days after the date of posting, and
  • 97 % within 5 days after the date of posting.

EU countries are required to take a number of measures including:

  • laying down quality standards for national mail and ensuring that they are compatible with those laid down for services between EU countries,
  • notifying their quality standards for national services to the European Commission, which will publish them in the same manner as the standards for services between EU countries,
  • ensuring transparent, simple and inexpensive complaint procedures are put in place by all postal service providers.

National regulatory authorities

  • Every EU country must designate one or more national regulatory authorities that are legally separate from and operationally independent of the postal operators.
  • Where postal services remain under state control or ownership, regulatory functions must be structurally separated from activities associated with ownership or control.

In 2010, the European Regulators Group for Postal Services was established. It is composed of national regulatory authorities for postal services and provides advice and assistance to the Commission.


It entered into force on 27 February 2008. EU countries had to incorporate it into national legislation by 31 December 2010 and, in certain cases, by 31 December 2012.


Postal services


Directive 2008/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services (OJ L 52, 27.2.2008, pp. 3–20)

Successive amendments to Directive 2008/6/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for documentary purpose only.


Commission Decision of 10 August 2010 establishing the European Regulators Group for Postal Services (OJ C 217, 11.8.2010, pp. 7–9)

last update 20.01.2016