German Post under fire for not accepting Brexit ballots

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Jörg Luyken - [email protected]
German Post under fire for not accepting Brexit ballots
Photo: Jon Worth

Several Brits living in Germany have said they have had to pay extra to send their ballots in for the EU referendum. Others worry that their votes may now be stuck in the post.


Three British nationals have told The Local that Deutsche Post did not recognize the prepaid postage on mail-in ballots for the so-called Brexit referendum.

The ballots have been marked with an International Business Response Service (IBRS) stamp, which the UK Electoral Commission assured The Local should mean that the sender pays nothing towards the cost of delivery.

But Jon Worth, a Berlin-based blogger, described on Facebook how he went to send his ballot and was told by postal workers that he would have to pay €3.70 or the envelope wouldn’t reach the UK.

Speaking to The Local via email, Worth said that the problem stemmed from the fact that the ballot envelope is large enough to be considered a Maxibrief (large letter) - a size which requires additional payment.

The IBRS, though, should mean that the postage is free for the sender up to a weight of 50 grams.

But another two Brits living in Germany also confirmed to The Local that they had been forced to pay for extra postage like Worth.

One said that despite him pointing at the “no stamp required” label, the postal worker insisted on the charge.

Several others posted on Worth’s Facebook timeline, questioning whether their ballots would make in fact make it through because they did not pay extra.
Other Facebook commenters spoke of a “scandal”, claiming that they were being robbed of a voice.
There was little agreement on where the blame lay, though.
Worth questioned whether Deutsche Post were in fact not respecting the rules of the IBRS.
Others said the UK Electoral Commission should being doing more than just relying on the Royal Mail to get the job done for them.
'Put them in the post box'
A spokesperson for Deutsche Post assured The Local, though, that expat Brits would get their ballots through without paying anything extra.
“Deutsche Post most certainly accepts envelopes in the format IBRS for the referendum on EU membership. We have informed our branches about these IBRS deliveries.
“[But] because this product is rarely used, it can happen that in individual cases the branch erroneously charges the customer postage.
“In these circumstances we advise customers to put their ballots in a post box.”
The Electoral Commission told The Local they were unaware that voters in Germany had been facing problems sending in their ballots.
They claimed that Royal Mail had been in contact with postal services abroad to make clear to them that envelopes marked with the IBRS could be sent free of charge.

But the postage problem does not appear to be isolated to Germany. France's postal service La Poste has been forced to inform all of its branches that they must send through the referendum ballots after complaints that voters had been forced to buy extra stamps. Meanwhile Brits in Belgium were also reporting problems.

The Local is not aware of problems in other countries, and spokespeople for the Spanish and Swedish postal services have confirmed to our reporters that ballots posted in those countries would be sent.


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