Condition 9 of Royal Mail’s licence from OfCom (formerly PostComm) requires access to RM’s delivery network to be granted to other postal companies at reasonable cost. Under their licences, granted by Royal Mail Wholesale, these operators collect, sort and consolidate mail and then convey that mail to “the relevant Royal Mail office” for delivery. Currently relevant offices are Mail Centres, but may ultimately be Delivery Offices. This process is known as “Downstream Access” (DSA), the other operators performing or sub-contracting the “Upstream” processes of collection, sorting to RM requirements and distribution to Mail Centres.
Since 2004, Individual items of ‘Condition 9 Access Mail’ have been pre-printed with special PPI indicia including the Access indicator, orginally in the format ‘S/POSTAGE PAID GB/C9 10001’. The significance of the bold S has not been confirmed, but it may stand for same (day), as Royal Mail is contracted to deliver such items within 24 hours of arrival at the Mail Centre. A logo to the left of the PPI indicia identifies the licence holder or customer. Standard sizes for the “S-block” specified by Royal Mail Wholesale were 10 x 20 mm and 15 x 30 mm, but needless to say, as with other PPIs, variations occur in practice. Some DSA indicia are printed by ink-jet, while some are printed on labels or colour blocks to cover the original PPI on existing stationery. Increasingly, pictorial designs, often with simulated 'perforations' around a stamp-like design, are used to make DSA mail more eye-catching.
In April 2010, Royal Mail Wholesale introduced Royal Mail Advertising Mail (TM), with discounts to stimulate Direct Mail advertising. Items posted under this service bear licence numbers beginning A9 in place of C9, as in the Brightpost example shown.
From June 2012, the 'S-block' is being replaced by a new design incoporating the Royal Mail logo, either 15 x 20 mm or 15 x 30mm, to emphasise that such mail is delivered by Royal Mail, despite the earlier parts of its journey being performed by other companies.
If DSA mail is delivered to the wrong Mail Centre by the mail company, Royal Mail stamps it 'Condition 9 Access Mail Received Out Of Course At ..... Mail Centre', using a variety of rubber stamps and machine slogans.
Downstream Access Licences can be divided into several groups:
1. Licences held by distribution companies, which consolidate and sort letters for their customers, and convey sorted mail to the appropriate Royal Mail mail centres. The major players are UK Mail (C9 10001), TNT Post (C9 10002) and Secured Mail (C9 10017) - the latter taking over DSA operations from DHL Global Mail in 2012. Smaller parcel delivery companies also entering the letter market include Geopost/MailPlus (C9 10011, now ceased), Target Express/City Link (C9 10012) and Lynx/UPS (C9 10014 & 10024).
2. Licences held by mailing or fulfilment companies, who carry out the entire process from marketing plan and origination to printing and sorting of mailings on behalf of their customers. Examples are Regional Mail Services/PostalNet (C9 10004), Brightsource (C9 10018) and Northern Mail (C9 10026). Distribution to Royal Mail sites may be carried out in-house or by sub-contractors. These are referred to as Agency licences.
3. Licences held by major producers of mail, mainly in the financial sector, which have a direct contractual relationship with Royal Mail, although distribution is generally carried out by one of the major mail companies listed in 1 above. The first such licence was probably C9 10005, used on mailings by T-Mobile; as with other such licences, mailings bear the logo or a symbol of the originator, rather than the mail company involved. One might wonder why more explicit logos, clearly identifying the banks and other companies concerned have not been generally used. My own guess is that “neutral” logos have been chosen to avoid confusion between various brands within a group (e.g. HBOS includes both Halifax and Bank of Scotland, and RBS Group includes RBS, NatWest and other subsidiaries. This type of licence is known as CDA - Customer Direct Access.
Many designs exist in a variety of colours, and in recent years pictorial Customer Access Indicators have appeared - some with simulated perforations, so as to resemble stamps. TNT Post indeed produced some designs on 'stamps' - perforated adhesive labels. Such designs are listed and illustrated in the 'BPS Journal'.
The original specification for C9 indicia excluded negative or reversed print – i.e. white on a coloured background - although as with RM PPIs some customers or their printers used such logos in error or for design effect. However, Royal Mail Wholesale later amended its rules, to allow reversed-out logos on certain conditions. Unfortunately, RMW regards the identity of licence holders as commercially confidential, but they did confirm that C9 10010 was not issued.
Page updated 11th December 2012