Communication is key in new postal environment: Potter

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WASHINGTON - Dialog between mailers and the U.S. Postal Service is key if the mailing industry is going to successfully navigate new roads that have barely been mapped.

This was a key message from Postmaster General John E. Potter in his keynote address at the National Postal Forum yesterday. Mr. Potter was referring to the new postal law that took effect on Dec. 20 that changes the role of the agency and the Postal Regulatory Commission. Under the law, the PRC must write a new set of rules on how to establish mail rates; ensure compliance with the new rules; act on complaints about postal rates and poor mail delivery; review whether mail delivery is meeting the needs of the nation; and, if necessary, use subpoena power to get information from the Postal Service.

"Roles...have changes. Rules [are] under development," Mr. Potter said. "Today, communication with each other is more important than ever as we work to understand and shape this new world."

Mr. Potter also discussed how mailers and the USPS have to work together to mitigate some of the larger rate increases that they face. Rate increases go into effect May 14 for most mailers.

"In many cases the PRC lowered rates compared to the original Board of Governors proposal. That's good," he said. "But I'm very concerned about whose rates are growing significantly above the average. My message to you is that we want to work with you to lower your costs so you stay in the mail...While we all wish there was more time to react, we have to use the time available."

Mr. Potter offered some examples: For some products, like medicine, he told the audience they can convert from bottles to blister packs.

"In postal terms, you mail a flat and not a package and get the benefit of the lower flat rates," he said.

He also explained that boxed cards and boxed checks can easily move to a flat shape - which makes the mail pieces more efficient to process and deliver - and thus lower postage costs.

Some lighter, oversized envelopes and catalogs can be folded and mailed as letters, according to Mr. Potter.

"And some catalogers are talking about changing to a digest size," he said." Both can help you save by taking advantage of lower, letter-sized rates."

Mr. Potter also addressed the do-not mail legislation that has popped up in more than a dozen states.

"The postal service, obviously opposes these legislative efforts," he said. "[Despite the withdrawal of bills in four states,] you can never be sure how the legislative process is going to play out. So, we need to focus on the issues spurring these legislative initiatives. Mail that reaches a home where it's not welcome is not a good use of anybody's time or resources. And it can turn the recipient off to mail."

Mr. Potter also explained how important it is for the mailing industry and the USPS to work together in this arena as well.

"The legislation is a call to action for all of us," he said. "I look forward to working with the entire mailing community in addressing these issues...Let's all commit to work together to make it even better by addressing the concerns being raised in the do-not-mail state legislation."

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