USPS Ruling Clarifies When Expiration Dates are 'Personal'

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The U.S. Postal Service issued a revised customer support ruling this week regarding personal information contained in a mail piece. The USPS clarified that an expiration date in a mail piece does not constitute personal information if the sole purpose of the mailing is advertising a product or service.

As a result, such matter can be mailed at Standard rates as opposed to First-Class rates.

The ruling was designed to assist customers making decisions whether a mail piece containing "personal" information is eligible as Standard Mail under current rules as well as revised standards that will be effective June 1, 2005.

The ruling concerned the classification of a subscription renewal notice for a publication that was not identified by the USPS. In addition to the name and address of the customer and account number -- neither of which is generally considered "personal information" for mail classification purposes -- the mail piece contained an expiration date of the current subscription.

The notice prominently displayed the words "Renewal Notice" and encouraged the subscriber to renew before the expiration date.

The expiration date is used to direct the addressee to an advertised product or service being offered for sale or lease, according to the ruling. No other personal information was included in the mail piece. As a result, the mailing was determined to be eligible for Standard Mail rates.

The decision that the mail piece is eligible for Standard Mail rates also is consistent with revised standards that will be effective June 1, 2005.

Under the provisions, material containing personal information is subject to First-Class or Express Mail postage. Personal information is defined as any information specific to the addressee.

The new provisions note that personal information may not be included in a Standard Mail piece unless three conditions are met:

· The mail piece contains explicit advertising for a product or service for sale or lease, or an explicit solicitation for a donation.

· All of the personal information is directly related to the advertising or solicitation.

· The exclusive reason for inclusion of all personal information is to support the advertising or solicitation in the mail piece.

The USPS issued another customer support ruling on Dec. 20 clarifying that certain customer markings on the outside of advertising matter do not constitute personal information according to the Domestic Mail Manual.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal issues for DM To keep up with the latest postal news subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter DM News Daily by visiting

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