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App-based couriers put under scrutiny

2014-03-28 12:39 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Yao Lan

A new parcel delivery service based around a mobile phone application that pairs customers with freelance couriers is growing in popularity in Shanghai. It's also being closely monitored by the industry's ruling body.

The app, known in English as "Everyone's Express," has been developed by RRKD Express and makes it possible for anyone over 18 with a GPS-enabled mobile phone to work as a courier.

In response, the Shanghai Postal Management Bureau said yesterday it is keeping a close eye on the situation to ensure there is no disruption to the order of the industry.

Under the system, customers pay between 15 yuan (US$2.41) and 35 yuan to have a parcel delivered within the city. Of that, the courier takes 80 percent and RRKD 20 percent.

The company promises delivery within the hour, and if there is a delay customers are free to deduct a percentage of the due payment. It accepts parcels valued up to 500 yuan.

Traditional courier services charge between 5 yuan and 12 yuan for a cross-city next-day delivery, though there are premiums for speedier services.

Despite RRKD's promise, when Shanghai Daily used the service to transport a parcel from Xinzhuang in Minhang District to the Lujiazui area, it was charged 39 yuan and the items took four hours to arrive.

Easy money

Nonetheless, the idea has captured the imagination of local people, many of whom accept assignments on their way to their day jobs or during their lunch breaks.

A man surnamed Huang told Shanghai Daily he can earn up to 3,000 yuan a month as a freelance courier.

"I usually make about 200 yuan a day," the 38-year-old said.

But not everyone is upbeat about the service. Industry expert Xu Yong said he is concerned about the safety of the people delivering the packages.

"The couriers have almost no protection from the company. So what happens if they are injured while making a delivery?" he said.

There could also be problems if a parcel is lost or damaged, or if it contains something illegal, he said.

Xie Qin, the founder of RRKD, said the company has applied to the postal bureau for a courier's licence.

It has already been given approval to operate in Sichuan Province, though in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, the authorities have ordered it to suspend its service, he said.

Chen Linhua, secretary-general of the Shanghai Express Trade Association, said while the company is described as a platform, which is a new business model for the courier industry, it can still be deemed illegal if it fails to get approval.

Technicalities aside, the platform is popular. RRKD now has 100 franchises, about 5 million users and more than 1 million couriers, Xie said.

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