The Post Office (Sapo) on Wednesday launched its electronic registered mail service. This service is fully compliant with legislative requirements to provide a secure alternative with complete audit trail, to the lawful service of notices by “physical” registered mail.
It will enable customers to send single or bulk registered mail any time, day or night from any device wherever they are, and get proof of delivery that will stand up in court, Sapo head of commercial Nkosinati Tolom told stakeholders.
At R16.00 per single item mailed, it will be cheaper than its physical counterpart (R25.00) and could be used for the service of notices (traffic fines) in terms of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto), the National Credit Act (NCA) and e-toll debt.
Sapo CEO Mark Barnes said embracing new technology is one of the pillars of the new Post Office and e-registered mail is the first of many products that will be brought to market in the process of replicating existing postal services electronically.
He said Sapo is the only entity by law allowed to deliver registered mail that is accepted in court. Its clients will now be able to send e-registered mail to recipients all over the world at reduced cost
Sapo will continue to roll out new services, he said. It is the owner of “the last mile” and nobody could replicate the entity’s footprint, especially in rural areas. Sapo will embrace the delivery of parcels ordered by e-commerce as well as banking services and government-related services like the delivery of ID cards and vehicle licenses.
Barnes said in future “you will be able to transact most of your life” at the local Post Office.
Sapo is weeks away from raising the capital that will get it onto its feet again, he said.
Customers will have to register to use the e-registered mail and will receive a digital post box for life with some digital storage upfront and an option to purchase more. Sapo is still working with partners to bring the cost of storage down.
There is an Outlook or Lotus Notes plug-in available.
Recipients will be flagged that registered mail is awaiting delivery and then have to register to ensure that he/she is in fact the intended recipient.
Customers who send bulk e-registered mail will be billed very seven days, while businesses and individual users can use several upfront payment methods, including credit and debit cards and an electronic wallet that can be topped-up.
The new service has huge financial benefits for entities like the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) that has to serve millions of notices on alleged infringers per annum, since it will be “instant and inescapable”, Barnes said. The RTIA administers the Aarto Act.
Sapo is in discussions with the South African National Roads about this and other services and is close to an agreement, Tolom said. He said the new service will facilitate easy notification of the e-toll demands Sanral sends to road users.
Barnes said e-registered mail cannot achieve what one cannot achieve in the physical world, but it will be more difficult to hide electronically. “If someone hides forever from email, there is nothing I can do.”
Andre van Jaarsveldt, CEO of LegalServe, a software service provider specialising in legal document exchange, says the up to 40 000 documents LegalServe sends by registered mail every month, will in future be sent largely by e-registered mail.
He said the judicial fraternity is conservative, with introductions to technology being met with “slow paced” reaction. “Regardless of the introduction of the Electronic Communications Transactions Act (ECTA), and the recent amendments to the Uniform Court Rules as well as the Magistrates Court Rules legislatively providing for the electronic service of court processes, our courts are slow to embrace this change.”Matters are often being dismissed due to non-compliance with procedural aspects of service as well as notification, he said. “This, however, is about to change.
“ECTA makes provision that any law, which mandates a person, including a public body and probably a juristic person, to send a document or information by registered or certified post, as we traditionally understand it, is satisfied if such document or information is sent to and registered at Sapo and sent by Sapo to the electronic address that the sender provides. That includes, among others, notices in terms of the NCA and Aarto
“This accordingly has the potential to completely revolutionise the disenchanted judicial approach toward the technological revolution,” he said.
With the introduction of e-registered mail the functionality, efficiency and credibility of delivering such notices significantly increases, whilst the cost associated therewith decreases, Van Jaarsveldt said.
“The inner workings of the system are intricate, yet the outcome is simple: Sapo receives your electronic notice whilst registering the notice internally. Sapo then sends the notice to the electronic address of the intended recipient. They guarantee an audit report which may be represented to a presiding officer as substantial evidence that compliance has been met with the provisions of the relevant legislation for which the report is being presented. Over and above this, you can be assured that the excuse of non-delivery cannot be used when such a report is generated.”
Non-governmental lobby group Justice Project SA (JPSA) said in a statement it “cautiously welcomes” the new e-registered mail launched by the South African Post Office insofar as it applies to the prescripts Aarto Act which requires service by registered mail”.
“Whilst our stance may come as a huge surprise to some, we are of the view that this service will greatly benefit those individuals and organisations who wish to and have repeatedly tried to comply with the provisions of the Aarto Act”, the organisation said.
“In particular, businesses of all sizes will finally be able to exercise their option to nominate the driver within the prescribed 32 days from service of an Aarto infringement notice.
“There is also a huge advantage to motorists, who instead of repeatedly being caught ‘speeding’ on a particular road where speed limits have often been arbitrarily reduced without any notice, would receive notification within a significantly shorter period – instead of building up scores of speeding fines before becoming aware that they were even transgressing.
“eRegistered mail may therefore be of benefit to both, law enforcement agencies and some errant motorists, fleet operators, etc. who have access to the internet and email and choose to opt-in to this service. It will not however replace ‘normal’ registered mail for those who don’t,” the JPSA said.
The organisation is currently challenging the use of secure mail by Aarto-issuing authorities, including the Johannesburg and Pretoria metro police services, to post infringement notices (traffic fines). JPSA alleges that this does not comply with the legislative requirement to use registered mail, be it the conventional or electronic version.
JPSA said the launch of e-registered mail does not affect its court case and it has received notice of intention to oppose from five of the seven respondents.