By Joe Hendry
In both the United Sates and Canada the mail is considered a crucial government service. In fact it is so important that Canadians and Americans granted their governments exclusive priviledge over the mail.
When business discovered that it needed urgent packages and letters delivered faster than the government could provide, both countries amended their laws to allow an exception to the exclusive priviledge of mail delivery for emergency or urgent mail. In Canada this was done through the Canada Post Act and the United States it was accomplished through the Private Express Statutes.
Both countries maintained that a minimum charge must be set for private courier services to deliver urgent mail. A minimum charge is important to ensure universal mail service throughout both nations. The post office operates all over the country, in both urban and rural areas. It’s much cheaper to deliver in urban areas as the distances that most mail travels is shorter. In rural areas this distance and decreased density of people means a much greater expense. Without a minimum charge, it’s possible that courier companies in urban areas could afford to charge less. This would leave the government with the much more costly rural areas to service at a much higher cost and price to the residents.
For years the minimum charge was irrelevant as courier companies billed at much higher rates than the minimum but in recent years most courier companies in major Canadian cities have begun to break this law. The main reasons for these violations include increased competition, volume discounts to large clients, and a tendancy to use the super fast bike messenger service to subsidize other services. Courier companies often charge less for bike messenger services as a way of luring clients who will send other packages longer distances at greater rates.
By far the single most important factor for companies violating the Canada Post Act is their flouting labour standards and labour laws. Despite laws to the contrary, courier companies arbitrarily disguise their employees as independent contractors. They pay commissions based on the rate to the customer, ignore minimum wage and overtime laws. They don’t pay their employees for statutory holidays or vacations. Messengers often miss out on lunch breaks and are charged administration charges for everything from the use of their radios and phones to the printing of their pay cheques.
Under the Canada Post Act, private messenger companies are only allowed to deliver if they charge 3 times the rate of postage for a fifty gram letter which is 3 times $0.85 or $2.55. In the United States the Private Express Statutes sets the minimum charge at $3.00.
That means if someone wants to send 10 separate envelopes (which would need 10 separate stamps if sent by mail) to the same company the minimum they must be charged is $25.50. In reality this doesn't happen.
And it’s an indictable offence in Canada, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Courier company owners are always complaining about their profit margin and discounting by competitors. Yet we don't see any of them pressuring the government to enforce the Canada Post Act. That's because the owners make their profits by operating outside of many laws and don't wish to draw attention to their industry. Most make their money on the backs of messengers' hard work. If they operated as required by law, they would be forced to rely on their own managerial and business skills to earn a profit.
Here is the confirmation from Canada Post.
14. (1) Subject to section 15, the Corporation has the sole and exclusive privilege of collecting, transmitting and delivering letters to the addressee thereof within Canada.
(2) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as requiring any person to transmit by post any newspaper, magazine, book, catalogue or goods.
1980-81-82-83, c. 54, s. 14.
15. (1) The exclusive privilege referred to in subsection 14(1) does not apply to
(a) letters carried incidentally and delivered to the addressee thereof by a friend of the sender or addressee;
(b) commissions, affidavits, writs, processes or proceedings issued by a court of justice;
(c) letters lawfully brought into Canada and forthwith posted thereafter;
(d) letters concerning goods for delivery therewith, carried by a common carrier without pay, reward, advantage or profit for so doing;
(e) letters of an urgent nature that are transmitted by a messenger for a fee at least equal to an amount that is three times the regular rate of postage payable for delivery in Canada of similarly addressed letters weighing fifty grams;
(f) letters of any merchant or owner of a cargo vessel or the cargo therein that are carried by such vessel or by any employee of such merchant or owner and delivered to the addressee thereof without pay, reward, advantage or profit for so doing;
(g) letters concerning the affairs of an organization that are transmitted between offices of that organization by an employee thereof;
(h) letters in the course of transmission by any electronic or optical means; and
(i) letters transmitted by any naval, army or air forces of any foreign country that are in Canada with the consent of the Government of Canada.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall be construed as authorizing any person to collect or receive any letters for the purpose of transmitting or delivering them as described in that subsection.
1980-81-82-83, c. 54, s. 15.
56. Every person who, in violation of the exclusive privilege of the Corporation under section 14, collects, transmits or delivers to the addressee thereof, or undertakes to collect, transmit or deliver to the addressee thereof, any letter within Canada, or receives or has in his possession within Canada any letter for the purpose of so transmitting or delivering it, commits an offence in respect of each such letter. 1980-81-82-83, c. 54, s. 50.
60. Every person who contravenes any provision of this Act or the regulations or who commits an offence under any of sections 48 to 59
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. 1980-81-82-83, c. 54,s. 54.
Canada Post's Confirmation of the Act
back to laws and reports
Back to MIH