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Bpost urged to reconsider 'customer collection' measures
The minister in charge of state-owned enterprises Petra De Sutter wants Bpost to reconsider its decision not to deliver a percentage of parcels in the coming weeks, she said on Saturday, after consultation with the company.
Bpost has asked consumers to pick up some parcels themselves at pick-up points due to a dramatic increase in online shopping. The temporary measure would cover 5% of the more than half a million parcels Bpost are having to deliver daily at the moment. The remaining 95% of packages will still be delivered to homes.
"I understand the worrying reactions that followed this announcement," said the minister. "I consulted Bpost and asked the company to look into this earlier this week as a result of these legitimate concerns."
The minister notes, however, the exceptional working circumstances of the postal service. "Normally they deliver 270,000 packages, now it's almost 600,000,” she said. “They have already recruited an additional 2,000 people. Employees work tirelessly. The company is looking for ways to continue and we can be grateful.”
The trade federation Comeos deplores Bpost's decision. "The government closed the stores and, at the same time, called on Belgians to order online from merchants," said Dominique Michel, chief executive of Comeos. "And now it appears that Bpost cannot keep up and now asks the recipient to go and get the package themselves. We wonder what's going to happen after that. Are we going to ask the customers to go sort them out themselves in the sorting centres? They cannot be serious.”
The federation claims to have testimonies from merchants who say that Bpost refused to pick up parcels from their premises because there were too many. An open letter from Comeos was published in the press on Saturday in which the federation called on the government to intervene. "The coronavirus crisis is difficult for everyone,” it read, “but e-commerce is the only way for our merchants to make a small part of their turnover. If this opportunity is removed, we can very well shut up shop."
Bpost clarified its position to customers last week. "Depending on the postcode of your home, you will receive an email asking you to pick up your package yourself in one of the collaborating stores or in one of our 2,300 Post Points," a spokesperson explained. Customers will always be able to refuse this offer. "But in that case, they will receive their package later."
Bpost will work with Decathlon from this Monday. A section of the sporting goods store will temporarily serve as an additional pick-up point.
In addition, the company says it is continuing to work with online stores to adapt operational capacity to meet the demand. But the expected quantities "have been greatly exceeded in recent weeks," Bpost explains. "Many local merchants and SMEs have turned to e-commerce and are now entrusting their parcels to us en masse."
"Before we even begin the traditionally busiest period of the year, we are already surpassing the peak we experienced last spring (during the first coronavirus restrictions)," said Bpost CEO Jean-Paul Van Avermaet, who is convinced that this "additional effort" represents "a solid alternative allowing end customers to receive their parcels on time."