USPS Plans Move Update Penalties

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The U.S. Postal Service may begin charging penalties in November to First-Class mailers who do not comply with the agency's Move Update rules, the postal service said last week.

Move Update, which began in 1997, is designed to reduce undelivered-as-addressed mail, which reportedly costs the postal service $1.8 billion a year. Mailers using automation or presort rates are required to update addresses every 180 days with a USPS-approved method such as the Address Change Service, National Change of Address or FastForward.

The decision to consider penalties comes after a test of nine mailers in the Southeast revealed that some were not using Move Update properly.

"We actually saw some deficiencies in the Southeast and noticed that some companies were not keeping their address lists updated and still getting the automation discount," said Angelo Wider, manager, finance, USPS. "But, before assessing penalties [where the mailer would have to pay back the automation discount he received], we wanted to give mailers some warning so they know the program is coming."

Even after the November deadline, the postal service likely will give mailers a grace period.

"We are going to probably work with the mailers at first to give them a chance to correct any problems that they have before we start assessing deficiencies," Wider said.

Mailers verify their mailing lists through tools offered by USPS vendors including Acxiom, Anchor Computer, Experian, Firstlogic, Group 1, Harte-Hanks and Time Customer Service Inc. The services vary in cost. NCOA users, for example, pay from 50 cents to $3 per thousand based on mail volume.

Wider said that the USPS and the mailing community are forming a Mailers Technical Advisory Group on penalties and compliance with Move Update.

Meanwhile, 35 mailers and mailing organizations filed comments with the Federal Register by the Aug. 29 deadline about a notice that would change the required update period from the current 180 days to 90 days.

The proposal also would expand the program beyond the current First-Class mail to include Periodicals, Standard Mail and Package Services. Also being considered are requirements for more frequent use of address-matching software and for that software to use more current address-matching directories.

Comments have been mixed, according to sources. Some mailers, especially smaller ones, worry that a 90-day Move Update period would double their costs. But others think the move will lower mailing costs by reducing UAA mail.

The USPS will review comments and likely post a final ruling with the Federal Register by the end of the year. The ruling could be implemented 18 months after that.

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