Booming parcel delivery industry is a shambles, inspectors say

Photo: PostNL
Photo: PostNL

Nine out of 10 parcel delivery subcontractors used by parcel deliverers PostNL, DHL, DPG and GLS are flouting the rules, social affairs ministry inspectors have found.

The probe, among 80 courier services and subcontractors used by the four main parcel delivery companies, was started 18 months ago because of signals of malpractice the inspectorate had been receiving.

Some 36 companies have been fined and 33 cases are still being investigated. Three cases have been reported to the justice department. The inspections turned up workers who were officially unemployed, illegal immigrants and fictitious companies aimed at money laundering.

In a reaction, DHL said it has a ‘system of checks and balances’ to manage subcontractors. ‘This is not about DHL. I will bet anything on that,’ a spokesman told the NRC.

PostNL conducted its own probe in 2019, which resulted in four subcontractors being ditched because they could not show they worked according to the rules while another 12 stopped working with PostNL of their own accord. The company told the paper it would need time to study the inspectorate’s findings.

The inspectorate said the four main parcel deliverers are taking measures to avoid rule breaking but that it is hard to ascertain if they are turning a blind eye because ‘business has to go on,’ inspectors’ spokesman René Brand said.

Online shopping has become more popular in the Netherlands over the last few years and the coronavirus crisis has given it an extra boost. However, subcontractors say they are not profiting from the increase and are forced to accept ever lower tariffs for every delivery. This is why some are ‘operating in the margins of the law’, the paper said.

The inspectorate said a further investigation into the parcel delivery sector will take place next year. ‘If you think the bars and restaurant business is a shambles you have not seen the delivery services industry yet. It’s much worse,’ Brand told the NRC.

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