*USPS Announces Final International Rates

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Most international postal rates and fees will increase Jan. 7, and mail classifications will be based on speed rather than content as a result of final rulings issued earlier this month by the U.S. Postal Service.


The ruling, which was listed in the Federal Register, also said the USPS would eliminate its Global Package Link service, an export service for high-volume shippers, on April 1 instead of in January, as stated when the rules were first proposed in September.


According to the USPS, GPL users opposed its elimination because similar services were not available from other international carriers and because they had made substantial investments to use the service. The USPS delayed the elimination of the service until April 1 to ensure that GPL mailers can make a transition to other products.


In the ruling, the USPS said it "appreciates the usefulness of Global Package Link service. However, the current service has not attracted enough customers to justify its continuation in its current form. The postal service, therefore, is eliminating this service."


In addition, the USPS will eliminate its ValuePost/Canada program and its New Market Opportunities Program. It also will eliminate charges for its recall/change of address service, special delivery, special handling and storage.


The USPS is changing its international mail classification structure from a content-based system to a speed-of-service system. Under this new system, the USPS will classify its international mail as Global Express Guaranteed (formerly Priority Mail Global Guaranteed); Global Express Mail (formerly Express Mail International Service); Global Priority Mail; airmail; and economy. Airmail and economy mail will include letter post and Parcel Post service.


The proposed structure aligns products by speed: fast (airmail letters and parcels and Global Priority Mail); faster (Express Mail); and fastest (Priority Mail Global Guaranteed). A fourth economy product line integrates various surface transportation categories. Rate adjustments also reflect changes in foreign delivery charges, or terminal dues, that were adopted by the Universal Postal Union.


The USPS said the new structure -- which is designed to simplify and clarify retail offerings and to better align prices with speed of service -- eliminates many content distinctions and realigns products primarily by speed of delivery.


Rates are also redesigned for these new categories, and the number of rate groups is generally increased to better reflect the cost of sending mail to groups of countries with similar costs.


The ruling said that "having more rate groups over 1 ounce allows the USPS to more closely align rates with the cost of providing service to various groups of countries, while maintaining rate simplicity for most users."


Charles Prescott, vice president of international business and government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said on the DMA's Web site that new international services and rates announced by the USPS in the Federal Register are not good news for direct marketers or for companies that send international parcels.


"One thing is sure," Prescott said. "If you are mailing substantially overseas for promotion or fulfillment purposes, you definitely need to rebudget, and you better think about warning customers, especially in the [United Kingdom] and Japan, about increased delivery cost."


After analyzing the numbers, Prescott said the cost of shipping parcels would increase dramatically, except to Argentina and Singapore, where costs will fall. Prices will increase substantially to the United Kingdom and Japan -- by more than 100 percent for a 3-pound package.


Prescott also said prices are up significantly for promotion mailers that mail overseas.
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