March 3, 2020 / 4:30 PM / in a month

A blow for stamp collectors? Germany to frank letters with codes

BERLIN (Reuters) - German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL announced plans on Tuesday to allow customers to pay for postage by app and write a code on the envelope instead of using a stamp, as well as expanding parcel lockers and live tracking of shipments.

An employee shows the functions of an automated and internet connected package delivery station with ability to receive payments by app, in Berlin, Germany, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

Deutsche Post said all franked letters would get a matrix code in future to allow their progress to be tracked through sorting centres, a move that should help the company investigate lost items and fight fraudulent reuse and forgery of stamps.

From the end of 2020, customers can pay by app to frank letters for no extra charge and get a multi-digit code that they can write on their letters without the need to print anything.

Tobias Meyer, the Deutsche Post management board member responsible for the German post and parcel business, said he did not think the service would mean the end of the classic stamp.

“It is a question of generation,” Meyer told a news conference. “We still believe classic franking will remain the significant majority.”

Meyer said Deutsche Post was not worried about untidy writing and would use the same technology it uses to read addresses in its automatic sorting centres to read the code.

In a nod to stamp collectors, Deutsche Post said the new matrix code it will add to traditional stamps would make them harder to falsify and enable customers to follow an online link to get extra information about the image on the stamp.

DHL will launch live tracking of parcels this year, allowing recipients to see when they will be delivered via an app, which will show on a map where the delivery van is and allow them to say where they want a parcel left if they are not at home.

German post offices have been overwhelmed by the explosion of ecommerce, with customers often forced to wait in long lines to send or collect a parcel or buy a stamp.

Deutsche Post DHL also faces increasing competition, including from Amazon, which is building up its own logistics service in Germany, already offering customers the ability to track parcels.

DHL will also make it easier for customers to frank return parcels, including at the company’s 24,000 post offices, 4,500 locker stations or with a postal worker at their front door.

The company plans to increase the number of locker stations to 7,000 by 2021 and has developed a machine where customers can send letters and parcels and buy stamps round the clock, with a video chat function also being piloted.

The company is cooperating with two companies - GMX and WEB.DE - to allow customers to get advance notice of letters, with the envelopes being photographed in sorting centres and emailed to recipients.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Janet Lawrence

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