The transport of mail is one of the postal services that consists of delivery of mail and parcels posted by the general public, and is a type of public utility for rendering to the general populace the services needed for their daily life. Under Article 144 of the Constitution, the business shall in principle be operated by the government, although it may also be operated by private citizens if permitted by law. Article 1 of the Act Governing the Administration of Post Offices provides that the postal service shall be a state-owned enterprise under the control of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. While engaging in the operation of public utilities for the purpose of supplying the people with general and reliable services needed for their daily life, such as water, electricity and gas supply, mail delivery, and transportation, at reasonable rates under its duty to protect the public interest as a part of its function of performance administration, the state may impose special duty on, intensify government supervision over, and grant such reasonable incentives as monopoly and tax exemption or reduction to the operation of public utilities, and set limitations on the indemnity for loss or liability for damage incurred by such public utilities. As such limitations concern the right of the people, they must of course be specified by law to the extent that is necessary for the furtherance of the public interest as required under Article 23 of the Constitution.
Article 25 of the Act Governing the Administration of Post Offices provides that if registered mail is lost or stolen, including the situation where a registered parcel, value-declared mail or value-insured mail is lost, stolen, partly or totally damaged or destroyed, the postal administration shall forthwith pay indemnity to the sender of the mail, with the exception of the circumstances specified in Article 28 of the Act. By the authority granted under Article 27 of the Act, the amounts of indemnity for each category of mail and the manner in which indemnity will be paid are specified in the Rules Governing the Administration of Post Offices. Evidently, the Act is not completely silent with respect to indemnity for damage or destruction of mail. The reason that indemnity is available only for damage to and destruction of registered parcels, exclusive of either totally or partly damaged or destroyed ordinary registered mail, is because most of such ordinary registered mail contains mainly documents and letters, which are sealed by the senders themselves before being handed over to the post office, and the value of these pieces of mail is based on the subjective view of the senders, rather than being easily ascertainable as are the value-declared mail, value-insured mail, and registered parcels. In excluding the ordinary registered mail from the items for which indemnity is available, Article 25 of the Act Governing the Administration of Post Offices is formulated by taking into consideration the balance among such factors as the fees charged, the nature of the services, the operating cost, and the degree of injury to the interest of the people, and is necessary for maintaining the operation of the postal services and essential to the furtherance of the public interest. The statute does not go beyond the sphere formed by the discretion of the legislative power, and is consistent with the principle of proportionality (Verhältnismäßigkeitsprinzip) embodied in Article 23 of the Constitution; nor is it in conflict with Article 15 of the Constitution in the protection of the property right of the people. Nevertheless, whether there is any need to make rules on the process of delivery and posting, rates of charges, manner of safekeeping, prerequisites for and coverage of indemnity for loss of mail of special categories such as stamp collections, of which the amount of damage, if any, is liable to dispute due to the lack of objective criteria for value appraisement, is an issue to be reviewed by the competent authority for the purpose of improvement.
Furthermore, Article 227 of the Rules Governing the Administration of Post Offices, which provides that the duty of the post office ends when a piece of mail is duly delivered according to postal rules or received by the addressee, and Article 228 of the Rules, which provides that if the addressee makes no statement with regard to defects in the mail at the time of accepting the mail against the issue of a receipt he may not claim for indemnity thereafter, are intended to set out the prerequisites for the liability of indemnity for the loss of mail. Article 3 of the Act Governing the Administration of Post Offices prescribes: "Where there are provisions in international postal conventions or agreements applicable to any category of mail or postal service, such provisions shall govern; if, however, any provision thereof is in disagreement with this Act, then this Act shall be applicable except for cases of international mails and postal services." The Universal Postal Convention, Final Protocol, signed in Seoul, Korea, on September 14, 1994, effective as of January 1, 1996, contains rules identical to those included in the aforesaid Regulations. While the Republic of China is not a signatory to said Convention, the clauses therein set forth may be accepted by us as general rules of international postal transport. Article 35(1) of the Convention provides that the responsibility of the post office ends when a registered letter, insured letter and any other letter of attestation is delivered in the same manner as required by rules governing delivery of domestic mail of the same category. However, Article 35(2) of the Convention requires that the post office be held responsible if the addressee or the sender of a piece of mail returned to the original post office has presented (to the post office) a reservation of his right in respect of the mail being stolen, damaged or destroyed where it is permissible under domestic regulations. In other words, a post office has no responsibility under the Convention if a piece of mail is delivered as required by postal regulations and the addressee has made no reservation of his right at the time of acceptance of the mail. It follows therefore that Articles 227 and 228 of the Rules Governing the Administration of Post Offices are in accord with said international convention and do not exceed the scope of authority under Article 27 of the Act Governing the Administration of Post Offices, nor do they set any extra restriction nonexistent in the Act on the indemnity in respect of mail. Accordingly, such articles are not in conflict with the Constitution.
*Translated by Raymond T. Chu.