USPS Will Release Final CMRA Ruling

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The U.S. Postal Service is expected to release its modified privacy rules this week on the issue of private mailboxes at commercial mail receiving agencies.

The rules, which went into effect in April, require individuals, or small mail-order companies that want to receive their mail at CMRAs, to fill out forms with significant personal information - such as a photo identification and verification that they either live or conduct business at the address given - at the time of the rental.

While the USPS said the rules were designed to prevent mail fraud, the provision set off privacy alarms. By law, anyone could request the information on the forms from the local post office. Hundreds of box renters and rental stores complained that the new regulations imposed undue expenses on honest small-business operators.

Insiders say the USPS' modified rules will include a new set of guidelines and will allow for the release of information only to law enforcement officers.

"I think people will find out that we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that everyone will be secure with the new rules," said Mike Spates, manager of delivery at the USPS.

In addition, the USPS is planning to announce a final proposed rule on the addressing requirements for mail sent to private mailboxes in January. The USPS proposed a provision in April requiring that all mail received by renters have the initials PMB on the second line of the mailing address to signify it as a CMRA mailbox rather than an apartment or suite number. The designation was designed to prevent criminals from passing off mail drops as office suites or residences.

The USPS backed off on the proposal after hundreds of box renters protested that the address change would cost them a fortune in lost sales and new stationery. There also was no way, they said, to inform all potential correspondents of the new requirements. Renters also said the PMB designation was unfair.

In October, the USPS announced proposed modifications to the original set of rules, which were reached after a series of meetings with CMRAs, the USPS and other parties. One change allowed mail sent to a CMRA to include either PMB or the pound sign as the designator in the address.

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