New CMRA Rules Take Effect Aug. 1

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A U.S. Postal Service regulation requiring that special addressing designations be placed on mail from individuals or small companies that get their mail at commercial mail receiving agencies takes effect Aug. 1.

Under the rule, the USPS will require CMRA private mailbox holders to include a "PMB" designation or the pound sign on their mailing address to designate it as a mailbox at a CMRA, such as Mail Boxes Etc., and not an apartment or suite.

The regulation was approved in March 2000. No designation is currently required.

The USPS has said the secondary address designation is intended to protect consumers because some private mailbox holders have used a suite or apartment number along with the street address of the CMRA, implying to senders that the box holder maintains a physical presence at that location.

Such addressing practices create the opportunity for fraud or deception, the USPS said. For example, consumers who want to donate to local organizations or buy from local businesses might mistakenly think they are doing so when they respond to an out-of-state organization or firm with an address at a local CMRA.

The postal service also offers private mailboxes, and as a result, opponents said, the rules unnecessarily burden USPS competitors because some customers might be discouraged from doing business with a CMRA because they have to comply with these rules. The USPS, however, said it has long imposed identification requirements on post office box customers similar to those required of CMRAs.

"The upcoming requirement that CMRA customers not use 'apartment,' 'suite' or other term that implies a physical presence at the CMRA's address mirrors the long-standing requirement that post office box holders use a post office box address, by which is commonly understood that the box holder does not maintain a physical presence at the postal facility," said Michael F. Spates, manager of delivery operations for the USPS.

Spates said the USPS "has to maintain a delicate balance between meeting the needs of the business customer and the consumer protection needs of the mailing community. The [CMRA] rules improve the security of the mails by strengthening the requirements involved in the application for and use of a private mailbox."

Meanwhile, the USPS proposed a modification to its CMRA rules that would exempt part-time executive suite or office business center customers contractually bound to at least 16 hours of private office use per month. The proposal, published in the Federal Register, rescinds a February 2000 proposal that would have exempted OBC customers that spent a minimum of $125 per month in office services. The earlier proposal was criticized as being discriminatory, arbitrary and anti-competitive. Comments by e-mail or fax will not be accepted, and all comments must be received on or before Aug. 10.

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