Mailers given another chance to comment on USPS mailing standards

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Postal Service is giving mailers another chance to comment on its Sept. 27 Federal Register proposal that encourages mailers to prepare their mail so that it is compatible with the agency's improved processing capabilities.

This announcement was made Nov. 1 by Stephen M. Kearney, vice president of pricing and classification for the USPS at the quarterly Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee at postal headquarters.

"Among many of the comments we've already received formally and informally, [mailers have asked] for a second go around where we publish a second set of proposals," Mr. Kearney said. "And that's exactly what we plan to do."

Mailers have until Nov. 13 to comment on the standards that appeared in the Federal Register. The proposal would accompany the price changes expected to take effect next spring under the current rate case.

The proposed prices recognize that each shape of mail piece - letter, flat and parcel - has substantially different processing costs that need to be considered.

"After we get the comments on Nov. 13, which we expect will probably be a lot, we will carefully consider them and then have a second period in which we publish the revised standards," Mr. Kearney said. "We are going to shoot for early January to publish the revised set of standards."

Mr. Kearney said the USPS will allow for a shorter period of comments again, probably two weeks, "so that we can then issue interim final standards in early February. These would be as final as we think we can get them before the Postal Rate Commission decision, but they are [going to be published] about a month before that decision."

The USPS filed May 3 with the PRC for an average 8.5 percent rate increase. The PRC is expected to make a recommendation to the postal service's board of governors on the case in March. Postmaster general John E. Potter told USPS business customers Sept. 20 that the agency must prepare for a possible May 6 rate change date.

"We hope that once we get the decision, the only thing we need to add to those standards is the new prices, assuming the PRC changes a few of the pieces as they quite often do," Mr. Kearney said. "We think this gives people more of an opportunity to spend in this formal process."

Mr. Kearney said that, informally, the USPS is also listening to mailers' concerns about the standards, and inviting them to come forward with any questions or concerns they may have regarding the standards.

"We really invite as much of this as possible," Mr. Kearney said. "If something is not clear or is confusing to mailers, or if a particular mail piece they hope to use at a particular rate seems to be close to the edge or ambiguous as to how the standards apply to them, we encourage mailers to have a meeting with us and talk about it."

In general, Mr. Kearney said the agency is trying to accomplish several things with this approach.

"We want to keep the standards as clear and as simple as possible to administer," he said.

"But also, we want the standards to achieve their intended goal, which is to encourage what we like to consider is more efficient mail through things like drop-shipping, pre-sorting and more efficient packaging and shapes in the mail," he said. "And the prices are designed to reflect that certain types of mail are cheaper to deliver than other types of mail."

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