USPS Defers Mandatory CASS Rules

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The U.S. Postal Service said last week that it has deferred mandatory implementation of its August 1999-2000 Coding Accuracy Support System address-quality initiatives until July 31, 2000 to accommodate USPS customers who are busy addressing Y2K compliance.

The USPS' CASS is an address-cleansing system that USPS customers use to receive automation discounts. The USPS usually requires companies to implement new CASS-certified software by August each year. Most begin the process in May or June.

This year, however, after receiving requests from customers, Mike Murphy, manager of address management at the USPS, decided to give customers a choice.

"We thought it was the right thing to do," Murphy said.

While customers with internal Y2K problems can continue to use their current CASS-certified address-matching products to qualify for discounts, the USPS is strongly encouraging customers without Y2K schedule conflicts to proceed with the new installation as it becomes available.

While implementing new software each year comes at a cost for customers, Murphy is not concerned that these customers will lie about their Y2K initiatives -- and say that they have Y2K problems -- in order to avoid payment, even though the USPS is not formally checking its customers' systems for this type of fraud.

Murphy, instead, said he is confident that if mailers can implement the software, they will.

"Of course there are cost considerations with these address-quality initiatives," said Murphy. "But if customers don't use the software, it will increase postal operations costs because we will have to handle more mail that is incorrectly barcoded and/or not barcoded. As a result, they will end up paying indirectly [if they don't implement it as soon as they can]."

Postal software vendors, however, must implement 1999-2000 CASS standards into their postal software so their address-matching products meet the current address quality initiatives. They must go through the CASS-certification process, become CASS-certified and make their products available, effective Aug. 1.

These vendors -- who for the most part are already Y2K-compliant -- are pleased with the change and view it as a critical customer-oriented USPS initiative.

"The USPS has taken an extremely pragmatic, rational approach to this," said Victor Forman, vice president of postal affairs at Group 1 Software, Lanham, MD. "They have recognized the concerns of those people who have conflicts with Y2K, and yet they have given mailers the opportunity to implement the address-quality initiatives that they will find in the 1999-2000 version of CASS software."

Forman added that Group 1 and the USPS, however are imploring customers to install the newest version of CASS software because there are many benefits to doing so.

Forman said that Group 1 will have to create and maintain two separate databases to accommodate both types of users -- one for the old version of CASS, and the other with the new version. The company also will ship separate databases to separate customers depending on which versions they choose to run.

The deferral also does not apply to USPS National Change of Address, Delivery Sequence File and FastForward licensees.

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