Australia Post: prices, reviews and comments

PO Box and Stamp Prices

Year PO box price
(small size, standard location)
Stamp price
(regular letter)
2020 $139 $1.10
2019 $135 $1
2018 $132 $1
2017 $129 $1
2016 $126 $1*
2015 $120 70¢
2014 $112 70¢
2013 $104 60¢
2012 $98 60¢
2011 $91 60¢
2010 $84.50 60¢
2009 $80 55¢
2008 $75 55¢
2007 $70 50¢
2006 $60 50¢
2005 $56 50¢
2004 $55 50¢

* From 2016 onward mail delivery will take about 2 days longer than before, unless additional priority label is purchased.

AusPost year by year: a sad decline of a great service

2004—2014

Australia Post put the prices of its post office boxes up, again. In 2014, the cost of a small PO box became $112. In 2009, the price of the same box was $80, so in five years Australia Post increased the cost by 40%. Average yearly inflation rate in Australia during the same 5-year period was about 2.75%, which results in 13.75% inflation for those 5 years. Over the past 10 years, considering that the cost of a small PO box was $55 in 2004, Australia Post increased PO box prices by nearly 104%. Inflation in Australia over the last ten years was around 27%. Which means that Australia Post increased its post office box prices 77% above the inflation rate.

Normally, higher prices are justified by higher running costs, implementation of new expensive technologies or increased cost of maintenance. However, Australian PO boxes haven't changed for decades: they are still exactly the same black boxes with small doors and awkwardly large keys — so, besides the inflation, the running cost and maintenance should not be that different to what it was before. All the new services like email alerts or SMS notifications about the presence/absence of new mail in the box are available at a substantial extra cost ($55 and $89 respectively) on top of the box price, and thus cannot be used as an excuse for the price rise.

Nevertheless, Australia Post is blaming the price-hike on the mounting costs related to raw materials, delivery, transport and energy despite the fact that people who rent PO boxes are actually saving Australia Post money by reducing the street mail deliveries; the futile transportation of parcels back to post offices for later collection by the addressee when street address delivery fails; the cost of subcontractors for door-to-door parcel deliveries; the fuel costs; and by eliminating complaints about misdelivered letters or parcels that were stolen or damaged by rain, insects or sun when left on the premises. It also helps the Post to maintain a reliable service, because any letter placed in a wrong PO box can be returned immediately by simply pushing it to the back of the box so it pokes out a bit and attracts the attention of the sorting person. Whereas with the street delivery, those letters are often left on the top of the street mail box to be destroyed by rain or blown away by wind, because not every person has enough time or civic consciousness to take the misdelivered letter to the right address (of it is nearby) or to a post box for a safe return.

Therefore, by deterring PO boxes customers, Australia Post actually increases its costs rather than achieves higher revenue. When questioned about the yearly increase of post office box rental renewals far in excess of the annual Australian inflation rate, Australia's Post reply was:

We understand your concern around our PO Box prices, price rises are never popular. We need to ensure that our business is self-sustaining like any other commercial enterprise and this price rise was required. We remain committed to continuously improving our products and services and providing them to our customers at competitive prices.

Australia Post

Committed to continuously improving our products and services? — Did PO Box service improve by 77% during past 10 years? Nope. The boxes look, feel and work in exactly same way as in 2004, 1994 or 1984.

At completive prices? — By competing with whom?

Price increases may be necessary, but if they far outstrip the annual inflation without any valid reason or explanation, consumers will vote with their feet. No wonder that every March, when PO box rents are due, the red-coloured “Rent Me” signs are plastered all over the vacant boxes. Australia Post seems to be pricing itself out of the market.

Australia Post vacant PO boxes with 'Rent Me' signs
“Rent Me”, and you will pay more every year

Where do the profits go?

According to some sources, LPOs (Licensed Post Offices) — the local post offices and the employees we deal with on everyday basis — do not receive all the profits. Worse still: the payments to Licensees have been failing to keep pace with the imbedded cost of the provision of services. Which may mean that not only the prices are way higher than they should have been, but the extra profits are not actually going to the people who do the hard work. Post offices are given flat rate fees for delivering parcels, and basically discouraged by Australia Post management from servicing PO boxes.

The delivery process includes scanning each parcel in, placing a card into the PO box if the parcel doesn't fit the box, storing the parcel, serving the customer when they come to collect the parcel, scanning the parcel out, and, if required, obtaining the signature. The sorting must be completed by 9 am every day, and, given the increasing volume of parcels due to the popularity of online shopping, may require additional employees, yet the payment is the same flat amount, regardless of the cost the customers pay for parcel postage and for PO boxes, both of which Australia Post continues to increase without proportional benefit to the Licensees. The so-called fee for delivery to a business point does not account for the number of parcels to be delivered; that is, LPO receive the same payment for delivering one parcel per hundred PO boxes or for delivering five parcels to each of those boxes.

As a result of the increasing cost, the number of PO boxes leased at LPOs steadily decline. The Licensees are losing their customers and income while Australia Post is increasing and pocketing the fees. In addition, the costs and amount of work LPOs have to do to deliver mail to street address is greater than if the customer would have kept renting a PO box.

One would wonder if this short-sighted mismanagement within Australia Post is deliberate, and the aim is to increase the Post's short-term profits to make it easier to sell the whole system in the future? The very system that belongs to all Australians, is vital to the existence of the country, and should be a well-functioning entity that provides impeccable service. After all, while many types of communication now moved online, the post still has to deliver important paper documents, such as passports. And that's where any failure in delivery may have disastrous consequences.

Speaking of increases, according to Crikey, in 2013, Australia Post workers received a pay rise of 1.5%, while its CEO Ahmed Fahour, already one of Australia's highest-paid executives, received a pay increase of 66%, which brought his salary to an unprecedented $4.8 million a year!

2015

This year, Australian Post attempted to create an allusion that something will actually change, that the PObox-renting customers will get a bit more for their money. The PO box renewal notice boasted a colourful promise: PO Box notifications coming soon. We'll soon provide you with electronic notifications to let you know when you have mail awaiting collection. Simply update or confirm your details and we'll be in touch to let you know how to receive notifications.

PO Box electronic notifications service promise on the renewal invoice
A promise of electronic notifications on the PO Box renewal invoice

It sounded good, but a phone call to AusPost revealed that the notifications will be provided through the Australian Post's MyPOST Digital Mailbox account, which is their online service for receiving and storing the person's bills and important documents, as well as the current AusPost CEO's attempt to look young, hip and technologey. The notifications will not be delivered to the customer's mobile phone or e-mail address, as many were lead to think by the renewal notice asking the customers to update their phone number and e-mail address. If for whatever reason the customer doesn't want to sign up for yet another online myAccount, on top MyGov, MyHealth, MyTax, MySuper..., or doesn't want to trust the important personal documents to Australia Post, or is an older person who is not comfortable using computers — tough! No notifications for them. There was nothing about the need to sign up for the Digital Mailbox in the ad or anywhere else on the renewal, not even on austpost.com.au website. A misleading move, akin another Australia Post offer: to mitigate the impact of the upcoming postage stamp price rise from 70c to $1 that may heavily affect older people who are unable to use online communications and rely on paper letters, AusPost offered freezing the cost of stamps for this category of people. To receive the concession stamps, the person must signup for the online(!) MyPost Concession Account, which requires an e-mail address.

2016

In 2016 AusPost received a lot of criticism for inventing a way to give Australians a slower service for a higher price: the stamp price rose to $1, and, at the same time, the standard letter delivery time was made about 2 days longer than before. One can only hope that the slower speeds will lead to a more accurate mail sorting and delivery.

The PO box renewal letter came with the exactly same announcement as the previous year: Collection Notifications coming soon.

Mail collection notifications promise on PO box renewal form
Mail collection notifications promise on the PO box renewal form

The PO Box application form still contains the misleading: we can send you an email and / or SMS notification when you have an item waiting to be collected. Though AusPost finally mentioned in its Post Office Box Service Terms and Conditions that, in order to eventually get the notifications, the customers must open a MyPost Digital Mailbox, the online service Australia Post keeps actively pushing after losing its ability to deliver real mail properly and promptly. The so-called email notification will be, in fact, a message sent to the MyPost Digital Mailbox, and the so-called SMS is nothing more than a push notification through the MyPost app, which has to be tied to a MyPost Digital Mailbox and has huge limitations on what phones and mobile systems it works with. All in all: useless, unnecessarily complicated, privacy-invading, and not even there yet.

It may be wise not to register for their Digital Mailbox or give AusPost your email address, not only to safeguard your privacy, but also to avoid getting electronic spam in addition to the paper spam they keep shoving into PO boxes despite the customer opting out of spam on the application form. The clause on the renewal notice your personal information may be used to provide you with information about our products and services, as well as information from other businesses (including unaddressed mail) directly to your PO Box clearly states: there will be junk mail. To open Australia Post Digital Mailbox, the customer has to have an email address; so why not receive the bills directly to the personal email address, without dragging a dubious third party into it and entrusting that third party with your security, online safety, personal and banking details?

AusPost also suddenly started demanding to have the customer's date of birth in their system, otherwise they would be unable to provide this service. How they have been able to provide exactly same PO boxes with a more reliable, fast and affordable delivery without excessive privacy intrusion up until now, is a mystery. It looks more like an excuse to grab as much personal data as possible instead of actually providing a good service.

2017

According to AusPost brochure, they are promising 24/7 parcel collection. That's if your post office has that service available, as the fine print at the very bottom of the reverse side of the brochure warns. Good idea, if it works and does not require registering somewhere online and handing over yet more personal information.

24/7 PO Box parcel collection via red door
24/7 PO Box parcel collection via red door boxes

Other than that, the past year seems to have been pretty uneventful: the stamps are still $1 (wow!), the delivery is slower, the letters are often left sticking out of the street mailbox, the usual PO Box price rise (although, the increment is smaller than in recent years), signing up for a MyPost account is suggested at every opportunity AusPost gets (they must be desperate to get the subscriber numbers up), and the “free notifications” are still only available to those who signed up for MyPost.

Signing up for a MyPost account? Think twice...

AusPost seem to be pushing MyPost accounts at every turn and opportunity and promising countless benefits. However, a closer look at MyPost terms and conditions and AusPost Privacy Policy (which unfortunately very few read before signing up) reveals what MyPost really is. Here are just a few lines that would make any safety- or privacy-conscious person say a resounding ‘no’:

You grant to us an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt and communicate the Data (and all data and information comprised in the Data), and to sublicense third parties to do those things, to enable us to: (a) operate the Website and provide the Services; and (b) perform statistical and other analyses that are relevant to our business purposes.

You acknowledge and agree that ... we make no representations, warranties or guarantees in relation to the integrity of the Data or length of time the Data will be retained by us.

We may transfer personal information to countries outside Australia. Australia Post uses service providers in other countries as follows: Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States of America, France, New Zealand, India and the Philippines.

We shall not be liable to you or to any other person (whether in contract, tort or otherwise) for any loss or damage suffered, or that may be suffered, as a result of any act or omission, whether negligent or otherwise, by or on behalf of Australia Post in relation to your MyPost Account

MyPost Terms and Conditions and AusPost Privacy Policy

The aforementioned Data includes such information as your name, address, email, phone number and government-issued forms of identity used for identity checks. AusPost is basically saying that you must agree that they will use your personal information as they see fit; share it with whomever they choose, within Australia and overseas; keep it for as long as they like, even after you closed all accounts with them; and they are not responsible for any consequences or what happens to your identity information in the future. And as the reader feedback indicates, using MyPost and Parcel Lockers not only means giving away one's personal data, but also creates a risk to be put under surveillance for not good reason.

Another thing to bear in mind: MyPost account cannot be closed and deleted online. MyPost is quick to grab your personal data online, but to terminate MyPost account you have to call AusPost on 131318 (according to MyPost account Terms of Use, Termination section). And even then, MyPost Terms and Conditions say they may retain a copy of your data to comply with our regulatory obligations. So it is best to avoid creating the account in the first place, and if you were tricked into creating it and do not want it, delete it and also lodge a complaint with AusPost demanding that they should add a quick and easy way to delete these accounts online. They didn't require the person to call to create the account, so they shouldn't be using phone call obstacles for deleting it.

2018

Australia Post now demands email address as mandatory information on the new application for a PO Box (it was optional before). Why? They give no reasonable explanation except for the usual We will be unable to process your application if you do not provide the information requested. They somehow have been able to process the same application for the same boxes for decades without this information, but now suddenly they can't.

They also appear to be harvesting email addresses from parcels where the sender added the address to the sending details, and immediately emailing out some survey. The survey does have an opt-out link, but even by opting out, AusPost sees the customer action that validates the address, which they then can store in their database for an unknown period of time and fon an unknown purpose.

2019

Finally, a positive change in some post offices, promised a couple of years ago, and done the good old-fashioned way that does not require signing up for yet another online account or giving away yet more personal data.

Some post offices now installed “red door” parcel delivery boxes that can be used by PObox-renting customers to collect parcels 24/7. Great system, invented hundreds of years ago and now finally reintroduced in AusPost. Easy to use, always works, doesn't rely on some online system, doesn't even need electricity to operate. A parcel, if it fits and doesn't require a signature, is placed in one of the red boxes, a metal key or a key card is placed in the PO box, and the customer simply needs to return the key trough the slot in the wall after they collected their parcel.

Note: do not confuse these mechanical key-locked “red door” boxes with “24/7 parcel lockers”, which require a MyPost account.

2020

According to notes and warnings on the AusPost website, coronavirus impacted their network and caused delivery delays. Understandably, more people were shopping online during the lockdown, when real shops were closed, thus creating an increase in parcel numbers. Many parcels took much longer to arrive, some were lost...

Unfortunately, to lodge the late or missing item enquiry, AusPost demands that the customer creates a MyPost account. It uses the trap that became very common nowadays: on the first page, it asks the person to fill a lengthy form without any indication that they need a MyPost account. Then on the following page it says to submit your request, please login or sign up for MyPost account. AusPost calculated that after the person spent time and effort filling the first page, they are less likely to turn away and refuse to sign up. An annoying trick for harvesting personal data and increasing subscriber numbers.

At the moment, there is a partial solution: use the complaint page and select the missing item option there. In this case, so far, you can send your enquiry without creating a MyPost account, thus giving away less personal information than is demanded in the Missing Item form. However, judging by the reader's feedback, trying to contact AusPost about a lost parcel is a futile exercise. If the item is still somewhere on it's way, it will eventually get to the recipient, and no form-filling will speed it up. And if the item has been truly lost, then you are simply giving them your personal data for zero benefit.

Write a Comment

Like you, I am a PO Box renter, and similarly appalled by the unreasonable cost and significant annual price increases. As you point out, the technology has remained unchanged for many decades, so there is clearly no "R&D" to be amortised. Box layouts challenge both those of short stature, and most particularly those unfortunate enough to have one on the bottom rows, who are forced to kneel. As there are "establishment" fees (and additional fees for keys), it is reasonable to presume that the bulk of the "leasing" fees are related to the costs of mail distribution.

I have surveyed my Local PO, which has approximately 700 boxes (a mix of Small, Medium & A4), with all but 2 in use.

In 2014, even with pay-on-time rates the revenue aggregates to just shy of $86 000. I am advised that the time spent distributing the mail items in to these boxes is between 2–2½ person hours per day. At $20 per hour (plus 30% on costs) and for 250 working days per year, the actual cost of servicing the boxes is around $14 650. (This is a generous estimate of labour costs, and which are probably significantly less, especially in high volume facilities where staff performing this function will likely be on lower rates, and with lower on costs.)

This represents at least a 600% differential between cost and revenue!

It is well documented that the volume of physical mail continues to decline significantly, so the labour costs to service PO boxes (even after annual CPI rises) are almost certainly actually reducing. And, as the use of PO Boxes reduces Australia Post's costs for street delivery, there ought to be a rebate factored in to PO Box rental to reflect this.

As a general principle, the cost to the client for a service should not appreciably exceed the actual cost of its provision. In the absence of a plausible explanation of the cost of provision of this service, the sustained annual price increases and their magnitude, this simply amounts to gouging.

Anonymous, 14 March 2014

We miss the postal service that was once fast in reliable. Perhaps it was luck, but until 2010 our household haven't had a single letter or parcel misdelivered, lost, or unexplainably delayed.

Since 2010, numerous parcels and letters have been lost, including a registered express letter with important documents. Sometimes the postal tracking displays totally incorrect information rendering the tracking number useless. Several letters definitely correctly addressed to our PO Box have been returned by AusPost to sender without anyone in the post office knowing why and by whom. Wasn't one of the points of having a PO Box to get a more reliable mail delivery, not less?

Four or five parcels took several months to arrive from overseas, reaching Australia a few days after they were sent and then either vanishing from the tracking record or displaying "in transit" for months. We also had an issue with the postie (or posties, as they change very frequently) dropping letters on the ground in front of our letterbox, or leaving the mail sticking to the street out of our very spacious letterbox. We also frequently have other people's mail put into our box, which we either deliver to the correct address by hand, if it is not too far, or send back. We hope that other people are kind enough to the same with our mail should it be misdelivered to their addresses.

Why is this suddenly happening? If the volume of mail decreased drastically, shouldn't the chance of an error decrease too? Sadly, almost everybody now has at least one story along these lines.

Anonymous, 27 February 2016

I have a MyPost account, which I had to create to be able to collect my parcels from parcel lockers. I study and work long hours, so it is virtually impossible for me to be at home for a delivery by a postman. So it looked like receiving parcels to lockers close to my work or university was a good option. Until I suddenly received this nasty email from AusPost:

"Australia Post values the security of our customers and delivery services. We monitor the usage of these services carefully. As part of this security monitoring, we wish to advise you that the MyPost account created using this email address matches patterns that have been identified as being potentially at risk of misuse. As part of our responsibility to help protect our communities, Australia Post may work with Australian law enforcement authorities to monitor deliveries to the addresses linked to this account."

Shocked and confused, I tried to contact Australia Post for an explanation. Their reply was of course just some boilerplate text. So I did my own research and found that some of those 'patterns' include: having one address as a registered street address in MyPost account and several others as collect addresses; changing email address associated with MyPost account; using an email address on a privacy-respecting service like ProtonMail. The situation is absolutely ridiculous! I don't want AusPost keeping a surveillance file on me! So now I'm closing the account and hope to wipe out as much of my data from their system as possible.

Anonymous, 2 August 2018

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