Mailers Council Wants At Least 90 Days Before Rate Increases

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The Mailers Council is asking the U.S. Postal Service to adopt a standard 90-day implementation period when raising postage rates.

The council, a coalition of corporations, nonprofits and mailing associations that accounts for 70 percent of the nation's mail volume, detailed its position in a research paper released Aug. 24.

Mailers Council executive director Bob McLean said that "having sufficient time to plan for new rates is important to both mailers and postal employees, especially in cases like the current one that include substantial rules changes, so they can update their systems."

Implementation periods historically have ranged from 30 to 60 days, he said, though no law or postal regulation mandates a minimum time.

The USPS filed for an average 8.5 percent increase with the Postal Rate Commission on May 3. For business mailers, it generally means increases of 7 percent to 18 percent, based on averages for various mail classes. When the USPS files for an increase, it begins a 10-month regulatory process followed by a vote of the Board of Governors and publication in the Federal Register of the new rates and rules.

The implementation date is based on the postal service's financial needs at that time, the USPS said.

"We cannot project the date for the 2007 increase at this point, but we will make every effort to ensure adequate time for both postal and mailers systems to be ready," said Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman.

The USPS has said it would publish its proposed implementation rules for the current case in the fall. Software vendors can make preparations based on the proposal but cannot work on their product until the final rules are published in the Federal Register.

"Let's say we get the basic [rate case] in September," said Christopher Lien, director of commercial mail marketing at Business Objects in La Crosse, WI, which produces postal software. "Now I have to predict what resources I'll need to update the software in 2007. But if the postal service makes changes to what we are already working with, that is where you run into problems.

"We are walking the razor's edge in terms of cutting costs, and even one revision can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said. "By not providing sufficient time to develop, test and certify software, vendors risk putting their customers into a state of perpetual update. Installing software can delay production, confuse acceptance clerks and introduce errors."

The Mailers Council urges the USPS to adopt these dates for rate cases:

  • 90 days for simple changes to rate cells.
  • At least 120 days for structural changes.
  • Continue the recent practice of implementing international rate increases at the same time as domestic ones.
  • Raise rates between March and August to avoid Jan. 1 increases.

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