(new: details)

BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - Germany's consumers must be prepared to wait longer for letters from next year. On Thursday, the Bundestag adopted a reform proposal for the outdated Postal Act with the votes of the traffic light coalition. Only the approval of the Bundesrat is still pending, which is to be obtained in July - then the reform would be complete.

In future, Deutsche Post will have less time pressure: Until now, it has had to deliver 80 percent of letters posted today on the next working day and 95 percent on the second. In the reform, the 80 percent requirement is to be removed and the 95 percent requirement moved to the third working day. This will allow Swiss Post to reduce costs and dispense with airplanes to transport letters.

The new rules take account of the fact that letters hardly play a role in everyday communication anymore - instead, most citizens use chats and emails. The last major reform of the Postal Act was passed in 1997. "Back then, Netflix was founded and it still sent its DVDs by post," said CSU member of parliament Hansjorg Durz. Liberal Reinhard Houben also emphasized that, in view of the change in demand

- i.e. fewer letters and more parcels - there is a need for action. "With

With the new law, we are creating the framework conditions to ensure that consumers continue to be supplied with letters and parcels nationwide - and on favorable terms," said the FDP politician.

The law provides the framework for the postage increase, which is due to take effect in January 2025. It is unclear how much the letter postage rate may increase - this is determined by the Federal Network Agency in a separate calculation process. The Ampel coalition wants to ensure that the domestic mailing of a standard letter, which currently costs 85 cents, is allowed to rise to a maximum of one euro.

The law also focuses on working conditions in the parcel sector. A directory of subcontractors at the Federal Network Agency is intended to ensure greater transparency and help push black sheep out of the market. In addition, the Federal Network Agency and customs authorities will be able to scrutinize subcontractors more closely than before thanks to new reporting and storage periods: data on delivery routes - i.e. when a delivery person dropped off their first parcel and when their last parcel was delivered - will be available in future. This would allow inspectors to identify working time violations.

The stricter rules on the use of subcontractors did not go far enough for Left Party MP Jorg Cezanne, who would have liked to see a general ban on "subs" in the parcel sector. The Left Party politician said that the traffic light's stipulations on subcontractors were "a sham".

In the plenary vote, the Ampel parliamentary groups voted in favor of the legislative proposal, while the CDU/CSU and the AfD voted against it and the Die Linke group abstained. The Christian Socialist Durz was also in favor of amending the outdated law - but not in the way proposed by the traffic light party, as the amendment would lead to a superfluous "increase in bureaucracy". The traffic light representatives disagreed./wdw/DP/ngu