Potter Preparing for May 6 Increase

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NEW YORK -- Postmaster General John E. Potter told U.S. Postal Service business customers that the agency must prepare for a possible May 6 rate change date.

Mr. Potter's comment came Sept. 20 via satellite from the Arlington (TX) Convention Center to an audience of 15,000 mailing partners and customers nationwide. The speech was part of the postal service's annual National PCC Day, which honors Postal Customer Councils. DM News viewed the telecast at an event held by the Greater New York PCC at the James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan.

"Right now the plan is that we raise rates in May," Mr. Potter said. "There are a lot of people talking about asking us if we can extend that. We don't know what the economics are going to be like for the postal service come May ... But we have to be ready on May 6 if that is what the Board of Governors decide."

The USPS filed May 3 for an average 8.5 percent rate increase with the Postal Rate Commission. When the USPS files for an increase, it begins a 10-month regulatory process followed by a vote of the governors. The PRC is expected to make a recommendation on the rate case in March.

A Federal Register notice focusing on mail preparation issues is to be published this week, Mr. Potter said. He told PCC members to read the notice and "be very open with us, because there are still opportunities to make suggestions ... We want to make whatever changes are necessary, and we want to do that early so people can plan for the rate change sometime in the spring."

Steve Kearney, USPS vice president of pricing and classification, spoke at the New York event, saying that this is the earliest the postal service has ever published mailing standards for a rate case.

"We listened to customers who said that because the rate case is so complex, we need those standards as early as possible," he said.

Mr. Kearney discussed the rate case and the agency's commitment to working with the PCCs.

"You heard it from Jack Potter, and you're hearing it from me," he said. "All of us in the postal service are on the same page. We're with you. We're going to work together to continue building the best PCC network possible."

The Postal Customer Council is a network of community-based business mailers and USPS representatives who meet regularly to resolve local mailing issues. On both the national and local levels, Postal Customer Councils work to improve service and communications. There are 200 councils nationwide, with 100,000 members.

Mr. Potter said that the USPS conducted 20 focus groups last summer with PCC members to understand the needs of this growing network.

"We traveled around the country, asking you what you thought and what you needed from us to strengthen this partnership," he said. "We listened to you. We heard you. We took action for you."

A new monthly electronic newsletter, PCC Insider, will update members on issues affecting the USPS and mail industry partners, he said. Taking another lead from the focus groups, Mr. Potter announced the new Mail Pro print publication, combining the best features of two existing hard-copy publications, Memo to Mailers and Mailer's Companion, and adding new content.

Stressing the high cost of undeliverable mail, Mr. Potter also encouraged PCC members to use the most current, accurate address information and to take advantage of USPS products and services designed to reduce the cost and frequency of undeliverable mail.

Addressing is the first step to barcoding, he said, sharing information on the new four-state customer barcode and updating the audience on the availability of OneCode Confirm and Address Correction Service based on the new barcode.

Mr. Potter was joined in the broadcast by Pat Donahoe, deputy postmaster general and chief operating officer, from Green Bay, WI; and Anita Bizzotto, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, from Miami. Postal service officers and executives were in attendance at PCC Day events nationwide. National PCC Day also showcases the work of PCCs and includes awards recognizing outstanding service and individual achievement.

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