La Poste is extending again the range of services that postal workers can carry out on their daily rounds as letter-use continues to fall.
New initiatives include reading electricity meters, delivering medicines and even teaching computer skills or help with filing online tax declarations.
One recent initiative, veiller sur mes parents (watch over my relatives) where the postman or woman checks on older or vulnerable family members, has proved particularly popular.
For French tax residents the service allows for a credit d’impôt, with La Poste quoting a monthly fee of €39.90 for a visit once a week or €59.90 for two, reduced to €19.95 and €29.95 once the credit is factored in.
A La Poste spokesperson said it does not have figures for how many people outside France use the service to look out for relatives in France but said “we do know it is popular and gaining ground in such cases”.
Related services include the installation of panic buttons or arranging for a handyman to carry out small repairs.
Unions say seven million paid-for services were carried out in 2017 and they have been told that the number will have to rise to 34million by 2023.
New tasks include teaching (mainly) elderly people how to use tablet computers for €30 or helping people fill out tax forms on the internet for €50.
A service called Proxi course, will see shopping delivered to homes while Proxi data has delivery staff reading gas, electricity and water meters for utility companies, and Proxi vigie will signal potholes, complete with photographs to the mairie responsible for repairs.
Some postworkers are also now qualified to carry out driving tests while in other areas they help run meals-on-wheels services or deliver medicines to homes.
The initiatives reflect the government’s determination to keep the postal service alive as the number of traditional letters continues to free-fall due to the rise in email and other electronic communication.
In 2017, the number of letters fell by 6.8%. However La Poste still made a profit of €851million thanks mainly to its parcel delivery service GeoPost and bank La Banque Postale.
The contribution to revenue from the new services was modest, which has led some to question if they will ever pay their way. Potentially more profitable is a bid by its CEO, Philippe Wahl, for La Banque Postale to take control of CNP Assurances, so taking the bank into the bigger league of joint bank and insurance firms.
However CNP Assurances has as its majority shareholder the state institution Caisse des dépôts et consignations whose boss has not been sympathetic to the attempted poaching by La Poste, and who says taking a decision “is not a priority”.
Another shareholder, the investment bank Natixis which is part of the large BPCE banking group, has said that its holding could be sold but only if the price is right.
Meanwhile, the GeoPost service, which in France operates express delivery brands including Chronopost and DPD, has continued to expand thanks to the growth in online shopping.
In France it notably has the contract to deliver for Amazon, and it also has branches in most European countries. More expansion is expected into Asia.