Universal Postal Treaty

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Basic data
Title: Universal Postal Treaty
Short title: Universal Postal Treaty
Previous title: Agreement regarding the establishment of a general postal association
Abbreviation: WPVertr
Type: International treaty
Scope: Member states
Legal matter: international law
Issued on: October 9, 1874
(RGBl. 1875 p. 223)
Entry into force on: January 1, 1875 (Art. 19)
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.
Universal Postal Treaty 1934

The Universal Postal Treaty is the main treaty of the Universal Postal Union and can be seen as its constitution . It contains the basic rules and regulations governing the postal service. Accession to the Universal Postal Union is a prerequisite for membership in the Universal Postal Union, while accession to the subsidiary agreements ( Universal Postal Union contracts ) is optional.


Forerunner of the Universal Postal Convention of Bern is agreement concerning the establishment of a general Postal Union of 9 October 1874. A Universal Postal Union treaty (Convention union postale universelle) is on the first on June 1, 1878 (RGBl. 1879 p 83) Universal Postal Congress in Paris was closed . The Lisbon Congress amended the treaty by means of an additional agreement on March 21, 1885 (RGBl. 1886 p. 82). In Vienna the contract was revised under the designation Universal Postal Agreement on July 4, 1891 (RGBl. 1892 p. 503), also in Washington on June 15, 1897 (RGBl. 1898 p. 1079), in Rome on May 26, 1906 ( RGBl. 1907 p. 593), in Madrid on November 30, 1920 and in Stockholm on August 28, 1924. The Stockholm Universal Postal Treaty entered into force on October 1, 1925.

Until the Congress in Madrid , the Universal Postal Agreement and the other association agreements have generally been retained in their original form and have only been adapted to changing needs through additions and changes. The question of reforming the treaties had already been discussed at the Congress in Rome in 1906 and then again at the Congress in Madrid in 1920. Both congresses refrained from fundamentally changing the form of the contracts. However, the Congress in Madrid set up a committee consisting of seven members, including Germany, whose task it should be to work out a simple, clear and clear draft for the contracts, which had become more and more complex over time. The committee first met in Zermatt from July 29th to August 22nd, 1921 and agreed on a broad outline on a new version of the Universal Postal Treaty and its implementation regulations. After the drafts had found the approval of the association administrations, they were written down. The treaties adopted during the negotiations at the Postal Congress in Stockholm differ from the earlier ones mainly in that all important general provisions, in particular those relating to the constitution of the Universal Postal Union, are combined in one treaty, the Universal Postal Treaty, and in the new version of the Treaties do not present the provisions in an uninterrupted series of long articles, but are divided into numerous clearly separated groups (sections and chapters) with special headings and into short articles subordinate to the groups with a brief summary of the contents.


The Universal Postal Treaty is divided into a preamble , three sections, a final draft and the "Annex UN / UPU Agreement".

The first section contains the basic provisions on the structure, organization, business language and mode of operation of the Universal Postal Union and certain general principles for international postal traffic, above all the freedom of passage, the right to use the association's facilities (establishment of the principle that the countries of the association can The right to use the facilities of the various branches of service), the prohibition of unplanned fees, the temporary cessation of the service, the exemption from fees for prisoners of war, civil internees and for items for the blind , the association's currency (formerly gold francs today special drawing right ), the accounting procedure, the calculation of the equivalent value, postage stamps, Pre-printed forms, forms and the issue of postage cards .

The Universal Postal Union defines the concept and nature of the Universal Postal Union in such a way that the countries between which the treaty is concluded form a single postal area for the exchange of letters , and that the task of the Universal Postal Union is also to set up and improve the other branches of the international postal service. In the entrance to the Stockholm Universal Postal Treaty, 83 countries are listed as contracting parts. Because of the constitution and the establishment of the Universal Postal Union, International Office of the Universal Postal Union, Universal Postal Congresses and Universal Postal Conferences, Committees in Universal Postal Union matters, arbitration tribunals of the Universal Postal Union.

The second section regulates the mail service. In the 1st chapter the term letter mail is outlined. The following are also dealt with here: Fees, general shipping conditions, reply coupons , express mail , withdrawal of the shipment and change of address, forwarding , undeliverability , shipping bans, postal customs issues, fee slips, inquiries. The second chapter of this section is devoted to registered mail and its liability. The third chapter expresses the principle that a fee belongs to the collecting association country and then essentially discusses the issue of transit costs.

Under the Universal Postal Treaty , letters are to be understood as letters , postcards , business papers , samples , printed matter including Braille and mixed items (packed business papers, samples and printed matter). The contract regulates the collection of charges for these items, the weight and expansion limits, the approval of express delivery , registered mail and cash on delivery . The Universal Postal Convention only contains general provisions on the nature of the individual types of letter mail (e.g. for business papers, samples and printed matter, the provision that they must not contain any letters or information that has the quality of a real and personal message; for samples the stipulation that they may not contain any items of commercial value), while all the details about the nature of the items and their postal handling are contained in the Implementing Regulations for the Universal Postal Service. From the rest of the content of the Universal Postal Agreement, the provisions on the responsibility of the post office for registered and cash on delivery items, on the payment of fees in the correspondence and the compensation to be paid to countries of transit for the carriage of letters and postage, on the dispatch bans, on the regulation of the exchange of mail are to be emphasized with the countries not belonging to the Universal Postal Union.

The third section contains, as a final provision, an article that stipulates the date of entry into force of the treaty.

The final minutes mainly contain certain special regulations for individual association countries. It is important to emphasize the provision that no association country is obliged to transport letters that a sender living in his area delivers in another association country using the lower fee.

In addition to the nature and postal handling of letters, calculation bases for transit costs, etc., the regulations govern the establishment of the international office in Bern. The main contract includes the agreement between the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union and the provisions on the carriage of letters by air.


Since 2014, rumors circulating on the Internet have been attracting a certain amount of media attention that it is allegedly possible in Germany, based on the Universal Postal Treaty, to frank letters with - depending on the source - only around 2 to 5 cents. In addition, u. a. the postcode must be given in square brackets. Corresponding statements are often assigned to the so-called Reich Citizens' Movement. A spokesman for Deutsche Post said that the rumor was “well known” and otherwise “of course rubbish”. On the one hand, there is no corresponding passage in the universal postal contract, on the other hand, it is only concluded between the postal companies anyway, so that end customers cannot refer to it. The fact that letters are sometimes still transported without any problems despite insufficient postage is therefore due to the fact that the post office often does not charge any postage for logistical reasons .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Universal Postal Congress 1891
  2. Universal Postal Congress 1897
  3. ↑ Concise dictionary of the postal system; 1st edition: p. 688
  4. ↑ Concise dictionary of the postal system; 1st edition: p. 688
  5. ↑ Concise dictionary of the postal system; 2nd edition: p. 783
  6. Universal Postal Treaty: Joy on the Net: Four Cent Letters Arrive - A trick is circulating on the Internet: Letters weighing 20 grams can be sent for four cents - according to the Universal Postal Treaty of 1891. Does this really work without consequences? on shz.de from July 7, 2014
  7. Self- experiment : Swiss Post also delivers letters with too little postage on derwesten.de from June 18, 2014
  8. Jeddinger Friedrich Bode sends prisoner-of-war letters - hardly any postage for the Christmas mail on Kreiszeitung.de of December 3, 2014
  9. Why is too little postage enough? on Freiepresse.de from April 10, 2015