Updated: Law Lets Businesses Add Images to Stamps

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President Bush signed an appropriations bill this month that essentially opens the door for the U.S. Postal Service to authorize customized postage vendors to allow advertising images on postage, the USPS said last week.

However, the postal service said nothing will happen until after it completes its one-year test of the customized postage program in May, and it has no timeframe yet for when it would start letting businesses use images on stamps.

H.R. 3402 (Public Law 109-162) authorizes appropriations for the Justice Department for fiscal years 2006-09. It also included an amendment that basically ensures that the issuance of personal postage by private vendors, under agreement with the postal service, does not violate federal law.

Customized postage lets a postal customer personalize postage with pictures or images using PC Postage technology. The program has been quite successful. At the USPS Board of Governors meeting last week, Deputy Postmaster General/COO Patrick R. Donohoe said 5 million pieces of postage were bought with pictures or images using PC Postage technology over the holidays.

Qualified PC Postage vendors can produce customized postage to be used on First-Class, Priority and Express mail for personal use only. Vendors in the program include Endicia.com, Stamps.com and Zazzle.com. The postal service said it notified vendors of the law change.

According to a statement from the USPS, the old agreement with customized postage vendors "specifically prohibits images [that] consist of notices or advertisements, [but] the change in the law essentially opens the door for the USPS to authorize [PC Postage] postage vendors to include advertising images."

Executives from Stamps.com said they were just learning of the change in the law and were checking into what it means.

Canada Post Corp. has been successful with a similar program that it started in April 2002. The Picture Postage program requires small businesses to send to Canada Post the image they want to use on the stamps. In 15 business days, Canada Post returns copies of the image on adhesive paper. Also on adhesive paper are the frames of Canada Post stamps. Companies must stick the adhesive logo in the frame before placing it on the envelope. The stamps cost less than $1 (Canadian) per stamp, not including postage, and Canada Post offers volume discounts.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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