*Update: Mailers, Pols Hit USPS' Revenue Plan

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Members of the mail community met with House subcommittee members last week in an effort to allay mailers' concerns about a U.S. Postal Services' billing practice -- which they perceive as unfair.

Specifically, members of the lay group and the USPS met with staff members of the House subcommittee on the postal service to discuss the USPS' controversial Revenue Assurance Program. The mailers say the USPS demands payment of back postage for unclear, ambiguous or inconsequential violations of the Domestic Mail Manual. And, they claim, due process is limited.

Consequently, chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), is investigating the program, which is designed to track postage -- as a result of complaints he received from major mailers. He wrote a letter to the USPS' Postal Inspector General Jan. 11, asking that the program be evaluated; and that he be presented with a report by mid-February. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee, also has reported receiving similar grievances.

Specifically, McHugh wrote that assurances have to be made that the USPS is fully compensated. However, he added: "It also must ensure that all customers are treated equally and fairly." The chairman also hinted at the possibility of a Congressional hearing on the program this spring. But insiders say McHugh wants to see the results of the IG's evaluation prior.

The group that met with McHugh's staff included members of the Association for Postal Commerce; members of the National Newspaper Association; members of the National Federation of Nonprofits; USPS chief financial officer M. Richard Porras; and USPS Inspector General Karla Corcoran.

During that meeting, Porras said USPS officials are taking a new approach to assessing revenue deficiencies that is more sensitive to the needs of the mailing community.

In addition, Porras promised, Bulk Mail Acceptance and Rates and Classification Service Center personnel will work with "our customers when and where mailing problems are identified. We will provide mailers with notice of problems and recommend remedies. Deficiencies will not be assessed as part of this notice process. However, if after notice is given and identified, problems continue to occur, deficiencies will be assessed."

Insiders said Porras will be addressing MTAC members this week at its quarterly meeting in Washington, and will then summarize the information contained in the letter he sent to Joe Schick, chairman of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee on Jan. 11, that revealed how the USPS will be working toward easing the concerns of mailers.

While mailers expressed pleasure with the changes, they are not sure whether USPS officials are moving quickly enough to implement these changes for the good of the mailers -- or as a way to squash the possibility of a Congressional hearing on the matter.

"Members of MTAC met with [the USPS] before Christmas, and we all agreed to everything in the letter. But [the USPS] were still dragging their feet getting it out to let everyone else in the mailing community know what was going on," said Schick, who is also director of postal affairs for Quad/Graphics, New Berlin, WI. "But when [the USPS] saw that the Hill was involved, they suddenly wanted to get this all cleared up and taken care of, so they could tell McHugh everything was fine with the program.

"We can take their word … but until we actually see things happen in person, and in the field, I think most people are pretty apprehensive about the new plans," Schick added.

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