Mailer Groups, PRC to Plot Rate Case Schedule

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Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, direct marketers, mailers and other interested parties will meet with the Postal Rate Commission on Oct. 25 to set the hearing schedule for the next 10 months on the USPS' proposed 8.7 percent rate increase.

The USPS has asked the PRC to expedite its handling of this case to try to speed up the typical 10-month cycle for rate cases. By law, the case can take up to 10 months to complete, which means the higher prices could take effect just as businesses and consumers gear up for the 2002 holiday season.

A spokesman for the PRC said, "The USPS has asked us to expedite the case, and it's obviously in the postal service's best interest to have a recommendation of new rates as soon as possible, but we'll discuss that at the pre-hearing conference to see if there is a way to speed up the case a little."

However, the spokesman said, "Most of the parties are more concerned with having a full and compete record than with getting the decision out a little more quickly."

Since the filing, more than 30 organizations, companies and individuals have indicated that they plan to participate in the proceedings, but more are expetced to join. Interveners can sign up until Oct. 24.

Under the proposed schedule, the PRC would allow participants to cross-examine the USPS in hearings beginning Dec. 13. Parties would then have to file their evidence by Jan. 30.

On Sept. 24, the USPS' Board of Governors filed a rate case with the PRC. While the USPS said it is seeking a $5.3 billion increase in rates across the board, others say the filing could bring in $6.1 billion.

The request is for an overall rate increase of 8.7 percent. For Standard Mail, overall rates would rise 7.3 percent. Regular Standard Mail rates would rise an average of 8 percent, and nonprofit rates an average of 6.7 percent. Commercial enhanced carrier route rates would rise an average of 6.2 percent, and nonprofit enhanced carrier route rates would increase an average of 6.5 percent.

The USPS also asked for a 3-cent increase on the price of a First-Class stamp, which equates to an 8.8 percent increase and a total increase for the class of 8.2 percent; 9 percent for packages; 10 percent for periodicals; 13.5 percent for Priority Mail; 9.7 percent for Express Mail; 19.8 percent for Business-Reply Mail; and 9.1 percent for Bound Printed Matter.

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