French post office confirms it is ending its next-day red stamp

Customers will instead be offered an e-letter service for urgent deliveries

La Poste will discontinue its red priority stamp in 2023
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La Poste has announced that it will be discontinuing its timbre rouge red stamp on January 1, 2023.

The timbre rouge is for urgent letters needing to be delivered the next working day, but demand for it has fallen in recent years.

Today, it is the green stamp (timbre vert) which is the most widely used, costing €1.16 for letters weighing up to 20 grams. However, the service associated with this type of stamp will also be changing, with deliveries set to take three days instead of two.

A new e-letter option

The red stamp will be replaced by a digital ‘e-lettre rouge’ costing €1.49 – compared to €1.43 today – and will require customers to send a document of up to three pages through a website before 20:00, to have it printed and distributed to its recipient the next day. The new price will include the paper and envelope.

For customers who do not have access to digital [services], La Poste says it will offer the possibility to send a red e-letter from a post office, on a machine or with the help of a staff member.

Customers will also be able to use a ‘turquoise services plus’ stamp, “for the most important post which needs to be traceable, such as cheques or small goods.”

Letters carrying these stamps will be delivered within two working days and cost at least €2.95 to send.

Letters sent abroad will soon cost €1.80 if under 20 grams – a rise of 9% – while Colissimo parcels sent around France will see their prices rise by 2.4%. Packages weighing less than 250g will still cost €4.95.

‘Impact of new stamp pricing will be negligible’

On the subject of its new system, La Poste stated that offering the timbre rouge service generated a “very high energy cost” for the group, which was not sustainable when customer numbers were dropping.

“Each household spends an average of €37 each year on sending letters and parcels. This budget is in constant decline: it was €45 in 2016 and €38 in 2021,” it added.

“The impact of the new letter [stamp] pricing on households will be small, if not negligible, bearing in mind the fall in post service use.”

Philippe Dorge, who is in charge of La Poste’s Service-Courrier-Colis department, told AFP: “Customers have other expectations nowadays,” adding that the group had asked 22,000 people for their views on the issue.

“There is less need for speed.”

Moving away from letters and towards parcels

The number of letters being sent with a red stamp is 14 times lower today than it was in 2008, making up 300,000 of the seven billion distributed each year.

Lettre rouge usage is beginning to disappear; households sent 45 priority postage letters each year in 2010, but only five in 2021,” La Poste added.

La Poste CEO Philippe Wahl had already said last year that the distributor was considering the future of the red stamp amid the rise of digital communication channels.

La Poste has begun depending less on letters and more on parcels, which are becoming more and more lucrative.

In 2020, letters only made up 17% of La Poste’s turnover, compared to 40% in 2010.

The group now hopes to become a key player in logistics, with an ambition to establish itself as “the top European platform for linking things up and trade.”

Figaro journalist Marion Mourgue reacted to the news saying: “What a shame! Way to further exclude all those who are not internet literate.”

Other Twitter users commented that this will mean “paying more money for a service of lower quality”, and that “It is La Poste [and not just the stamp] which is disappearing”.

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