17 Nov 2023 12:59

Russian Post proposal to charge marketplaces infrastructure fee fails to get PM's support - media

MOSCOW. Nov 17 (Interfax) - Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has not supported a proposal to introduce an infrastructure fee that online marketplaces would pay to Russian Post, RBC reported, citing a source at the Digital Development Ministry familiar with the results of a government meeting on improving the postal company's finances that was held on Thursday.

"[Russian Post head] Mikhail Volkov presented a concept for increasing the postal service's efficiency. One of the elements is the introduction of a fee on marketplaces that would probably be passed on to consumers. The prime minister did not support the proposal," RBC quoted the source as saying.

Russian Post earlier prepared a plan to improve its financial and economic performance that included the introduction of the infrastructure fee for marketplaces, along with a capital injection of 117 billion rubles, debt refinancing with financing from the National Welfare Fund (NWF) at 3.5% interest, and the possible closure of some unprofitable post offices. The company's debt stood at 153.5 billion rubles at the end of 2022.

Russian Post proposed in May to impose an infrastructure payment equivalent to 0.5% of quarterly sales on e-commerce companies with annual revenue of more than 1 billion rubles and use the proceeds to support unprofitable post offices. It also proposed to give Russian Post the status of federal last resort deliverer of e-commerce goods, obligated to provide consumers with equal access to goods and ensure their guaranteed delivery throughout Russia.

Volkov earlier estimated the fee could bring in about 24 billion-25 billion rubles of revenue per year.

E-commerce companies have repeatedly voiced opposition to such a charge. The Russian online retailers association AKIT, for one, said it could lead to losses for a number of market players.

A working group was formed in the summer with representatives of the State Duma, Federation Council and marketplaces to look for alternative options, RBC reported, citing a source close to the group. At the end of September, AKIT proposed to "help" increase the use of Russian Post infrastructure through the purchase of the company's services, which could potentially generate 33.5 billion rubles in revenue in 2024.

State Duma member Alexander Khinshtein said in mid-October that, as an alternative to the infrastructure fee, e-commerce companies proposed to purchase Russian Post services totalling 37.9 billion rubles in 2023, with potential for future growth. However, the net profit from such sales of services will not solve the problem of the financial hole at Russian Post, he said.