*USPS Plans Electronic Service for Mailers With List Protections

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The U.S. Postal Service earlier this month proposed a new electronic walk-sequencing service for mailers with built-in mail list protections.

Advertisers that send mail addressed to "resident" use the USPS' walk-sequencing delivery service, which allows them to have mail pieces sorted by ZIP code, carrier route and the sequence in which the carrier delivers mail pieces. Mailers use USPS-qualified walk-sequence address lists to get these addresses. There are about 850 USPS-qualified walk-sequence address list owners, which sell their lists to advertisers and direct marketers.

The service would permit USPS-qualified walk-sequence address list owners to replace the manual production and processing of address cards with an electronic process. Currently, these list owners put each address from their lists -- along with all the street elements and carrier route numbers -- onto an individual, blank paper card. They then bundle them by ZIP code and carrier route and give them to their USPS delivery office. The USPS sorts them in the proper delivery sequence to make sure that what it has is correct.

According to the Federal Register notice announcing the plan, the manual sequencing process, which has been available for many years, "has become too labor-intensive and expensive for some mailers to maintain."

If the proposal is approved, instead of putting the addresses on cards, list owners would put them in an electronic file "and send [them] to the postal service's address management facility in Memphis and do electronic qualification here in Memphis versus having our delivery offices do it," said DeWitt Crawford, program manager at the USPS.

To ensure the integrity of the qualification process for the electronic sequencing service, the notice said all USPS-qualified walk-sequence address files would contain seeded addresses known only to the list owners and the USPS. This would guard against the submission of rented lists for qualification. If a request for sequencing contains a seeded address and all known possibilities of fraud cannot be ruled out, the request would be denied, and the owner of the seeded address and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service would be notified.

As an added protection, the USPS said participating mailers could "monitor the possible misuse of their rented or leased address lists" through a "password-secured USPS Address Sequencing Service Web site." The names of participating mailers would be posted on the site for 90 days.

Plans for the proposed service were published in the Federal Register on Sept. 19.

Postal officials are seeking mailer comments by Oct. 19. The proposal was developed after a series of meetings with saturation mailers and their technical advisory committee.

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