In the red corner is Australia Post’s Digital Mailbox service. Australia Post remains a government owned corporation, though it operates on a commercial basis. In the blue corner is Digital Post Australia’s Digital Postbox.
Got that? It’s Digital Mailbox from Australia Post, and Digital Postbox from Digital Post Australia. You can see why Australia post is suing Digital Post Australia (who we’ll call DPA to avoid confusion) over the name. The words are a little confusing, but whether that should be a matter for the courts is another question.
In August the Federal Court dismissed Australia Post’s claims of trade mark infringement, misleading and deceptive conduct and passing off. The court found that Australia Post's allegations of misleading and deceptive conduct were "without merit". In the judgement it said “it is difficult to imagine that anyone who is competent with computer technology will have any doubt that Digital Post Australia is separate and distinct from Australia Post.” Australia Post has described this as a “grave injustice” and is considering an appeal.
DPA does say on its website (in smallish writing) “Digital Post Australia is a joint venture between Computershare Ltd, Fuji Xerox Document Management Solutions Pty Limited and Zumbox Inc and is not an Australia Post business.” Just so that’s clear.
The two companies are now readying their products for market, attempting to pre-empt each other with various pre-releases and announcements. There is no love lost between the two, and their sniping and attempts to define themselves and each other are becoming amusing. Except it’s deadly serious.
Australia Post recently released its annual results. Revenues from ”regulated mail” – standard postage – are $1924 million and falling, and it made a loss of $148 million. “Non regulated parcels and retail” revenues were up 8.5% to $3073 million, returning a profit of $546 million. It is hard to see digital mail becoming a significant part of the pie.
MailBox was “formally launched” by Senator Stephen Conroy three weeks ago. A full launch will take place early in 2013. Australia Post has announced that ANZ, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Link Market Services, National Australia Bank and Yarra Valley Water will all use the Digital MailBox. Australia Post will also use the MailBox to securely communicate with its employee base of more than 30,000. They will join the previously announced Telstra, AMP and Westpac as “launch providers”. In addition the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are both “partnering with Australia Post” to explore opportunities to Mailbox.
“MailBox will be free to all Australians. It will enable consumers to receive and pay bills, track and manage their relationships with their providers and store all of their important documents in one place. It's easily accessed with one password, from any Internet enabled device, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.” Telstra will provide the infrastructure for MailBox. This is an amusing twist, given that both Telstra and Australia Post had their origins in the Post Master General’s Department. The wheel has turned full circle.
At the launch of DPA’s Digital Postbox yesterday, CEO Randy Dean ridiculed Australia Post’s launch. “Our competitor recently used its trusted and iconic brand to ‘formally launch’ what appears to be a ‘statement of interest’ for their Digital Mailbox Service. We felt Australians deserved to see what a functioning Digital Postbox looks like and how it operates.”
Dean invited consumers to preview the service and activate their “secure and free” Digital Postbox. “It’s ready for the receipt of digital postal mail. Consumers can see sample content and utilise other key functionality such as uploading their own documents for secure storage and retrieval.”
Dean says Digital Postbox begins a new era of convenient online mail delivery. “Once the consumer’s Digital Postbox is activated, they won’t need to do anything else. Mail will be automatically delivered online and be available on virtually any web-connected device. Consumers can receive, store and manage important documents such as bills and account statements in a trusted and secure environment. Digital postal mail offers businesses an efficient and cost-effective customer channel that can be enabled using their existing business processes and partnerships and can deliver savings of up to 70% per mail item.”
Dean points out that Digital Post Australia's joint venture partners Computershare and Fuji Xerox Document Management Solutions (through its recently purchased Salmat subsidiary) process the majority of Australia’s business-to-consumer transactional mail.
“We have decades of experience in the secure digital processing, storage, management and printing for the largest and most security sensitive organisations in Australia including banks, government agencies and superannuation funds.
“Our joint venture partners bring long-standing relationships with the top mailers in Australia,” said Dean. Our ability to get businesses rapidly connected to our network using their existing business processes and trusted digital partners is a pivotal advantage for DPA.”
The battle between DPA and Australia Post over digital mail is not likely to be of any great importance. Existing systems like BPay, increasingly sophisticated online banking and now the imminent boom in mobile payments systems are making the technology largely obsolete before it is even introduced. What’s the old saying? “It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.”