Mailers Confident USPS Will Revise First-Class/Standard Rule

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Mailers expressed hope last week that the U.S. Postal Service will issue a new proposal for a rule clarification regarding the differences between a personalized Standard mail piece and a personal First-Class piece.

More than 360 mailers and mailing organizations responded to a request by the USPS for comments. The comment period closed June 18, and more than 90 percent came from nonprofits.

"The postal service received a record response on this issue," said Ellenor Kirkconnell, assistant director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. "I am confident they will submit a different rule and submit that for comments. I think it will be very close, with minor changes. That is all that is necessary."

The USPS is reading the comments. Postal officials can propose a new rule, implement the proposed rule in January or propose the same rule again and ask for more comments.

The rule proposal calls for an exclusive-purpose test in which personal information would be permitted at Standard rates only when advertising or solicitation is the exclusive purpose of the piece and personal information is included solely to increase the effectiveness of the ad or solicitation.

Nonprofits are especially concerned about the exclusive-purpose test because they generally send joint fundraising and educational mailings. The proposal would require them to send those mailings at First-Class rates instead of the cheaper Nonprofit Standard rate.

"Dual-purpose mailings of this kind are an effective way of economizing on postage and other fundraising expenses and reflect responsible stewardship of the resources entrusted to nonprofit organizations by their donors," the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers wrote in its comments.

The Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation wrote that it is concerned the change will place "nonprofit organizations using personalization in the untenable position of stripping out educational and charitable messages in their mail pieces in favor of a pure solicitation for a donation."

The Association for Postal Commerce wrote, "Any rule that focuses on the advertising or solicitations purpose of the mail piece will raise speculative and possibly indeterminate questions about the subjective intent of the mailer, and will continue to make it impossible for entry clerks to fairly and [consistently] assess mail piece eligibility."

PostCom went on to say that the rule raises constitutional questions and "so broadly affects a substantial volume of mail that it amounts to a classification change." It suggested establishing a "bright line" that centers on defining what is required to mail at First-Class rates rather than one that "overly scrutinizes what may be mailed at Standard mail rates."


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