Postal software ready; Standard flats still unknown

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Postal software vendors have all shipped out their rate-change software and mailers should have them in their hands this week in preparation for postal increases, most of which are going into effect on May 14.

A key issue remains, however: What happens if Standard flats rates change?

"There are three scenarios that could take place," said Chris Lien, director of commercial mail marketing at Business Objects, a postal software vendor. "Nothing changes and we continue as planned; the PRC recommends price changes that would not affect the structure and we'd send our customers new rate tables, which is not a significant task; or the worst-case scenario, where structural changes take place and we'd have to send out another version of our software."

On Feb. 26, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued its recommended decision on the rate case, and on March 19, the Governors of the U.S. Postal Service endorsed the PRC's rate recommendations with three limited exceptions: Standard Mail flat rates, Priority Mail Flat Rate Box and First-Class Mail nonmachinable letter surcharge.

On March 29, the PRC issued an order establishing procedures for further consideration of these issues and invited comments from interested parties with a deadline of April 12 for initial comments and April 19 for reply comments on the issues returned by the Governors.

In April the Coalition of Catalog Mailers filed two procedural motions affecting reconsideration of the rates for Standard Mail flats. One asked to delay the new rates for flats set to go into effect on May 14, and the PRC suspended the deadline for the time being.

On April 27, the PRC granted a late notice of intervention filed by the coalition, but denied its motion to reopen the 2006 postal rate case and supplement the record. It also set May 4 as the new deadline for submitting comments on its reconsideration of Standard flats rates. May 11 is the filing date for reply comments.

In filing both comments and reply comments on the reconsideration of Standard Mail flats, the PRC said participants should let the PRC know that that if Standard Mail flats rates are too high, which rate cells should be reduced, by how much and why - or which rate cells should be increased, by how much and why.

Business Objects and other major postal software vendors - including Anchor Software and Pitney Bowes Group 1 Software - are also preparing to send out another version of their software when Periodical rates take effect on July 15.

Meanwhile, in an April 30 letter to the chairman of board of the USPS, the Direct Marketing Association, the Association for Postal Commerce, the Mail Order Association of America and the Parcel Shippers Association asked the board to delay implementation of new postal rates for Standard Regular and Nonprofit Mail "until the later [sic] of July 15 or a reasonable time following the resolution of the Governors' March 29 decision requesting reconsideration of the PRC-recommended rates for flat-shaped Standard mail."

On May 2, American Business Media wrote Mr. Miller a letter of support.

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