*USPS Defers Mandatory CASS Rules to Accommodate Customers Y2K Plans

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The U.S. Postal Service is sending a letter to postal customers today that says it will defer mandatory implementation of its August 1999-2000 CASS address-quality initiatives until July 31, 2000 to accommodate USPS customers who are planning to freeze computer systems this year as part of their Y2K programs.


The USPS' Coding Accuracy Support System, or CASS, is an address-cleansing system that USPS customers must use if they want to receive automation discounts. Each year the software is upgraded, and the USPS usually requires companies to implement new CASS-certified software by Aug. 1 each year. Most begin the process in May or June.


This year, however, after receiving requests from customers--and after careful thought and consideration -- Mike Murphy, manager, address management, USPS, decided to offer customers the choice.


"Given the concerns expressed by our customers, and trying to be a good business partner and support their process, we thought it was the right thing to do," said Murphy.


While customers with internal Y2K problems can continue to use their current CASS-certified address-matching products to qualify for discounts, the USPS is strongly encouraging customers without Y2K schedule conflicts to proceed with the new installation as it becomes available


While implementing new software each year comes at a cost for customers, Murphy is not concerned that these customers will lie about their Y2K initiatives -and say they have Y2K problems--in order to avoid payment, even though the USPS is not formally checking its customers systems for this type of fraud.


Murphy, instead, said he is confident that if mailers can implement the software, they will.


"Of course there are cost considerations with these address-quality initiatives," said Murphy. "But if customers don't use the software, it will increase postal operations costs because we will have to handle more mail that is incorrectly barcoded and/or not barcoded. As a result, they will end up paying indirectly [if they don't implement it as soon as they can]."


Customers are also encouraged to review theirY2K plans and consider implementing CASS 1999-2000 software at their earliest opportunity to ensure success to


Postal software vendors, however, must implement 1999-2000 CASS standards into their postal software so their address-matching products meet the current address quality initiatives now and during the next couple of months. They must go through the CASS-certification process, become CASS-certified, and make their products available, effective August 1.


These vendors-who for the most part are already Y2K-complaint--are pleased with the change, and view it as a critical customer-oriented USPS initiative.


"The USPS has taken an extremely pragmatic, rational approach to this," said Victor Forman, vice president of postal affairs at Group 1 Software, Lanham, MD. "They have recognized the concerns of those people who have conflicts with Y2K, and yet they have given mailers the opportunity to implement the address-quality initiatives that they will find in the 1999-2000 version of CASS software."


Forman added that Group 1 and the USPS, however "are imploring customers to install [the newest version of CASS software] it because there are many, many benefits to doing so."


Forman said that Group 1 will have to create and maintain two separate databases to accommodate both types of users-one for the old version of CASS, and the other with the new version. The company will also ship separate databases to separate customers depending on which versions they choose to run.


While this will have some cost and technical implications for Group1, Forman said it was worth it. "This is something we have decided to take on for the benefit of our customers."


In addition, Group 1 is communicate extensively with its over 1,000 customers, and has already sent them letters to its customers last week to let its customers know precisely what has transpired, what the USPS' position is, and what Group 1 plans to do. to let them know what is going on.


Vendors and the USPS are indeed working as partners in this process.


"The provision of this deferral were established cooperatively with representatives of the mailing industry and the software vendors," said Murphy. "We are confident that customers appreciate the efforts we are making to enhance address quality through CASS address-quality initiatives and that they will implement products reflecting these enhancements at the earliest opportunity."


The deferral also does not apply to USPS National Change of Address (NCOA), Delivery Sequence File (DSF), and FastForward licensees, all of whom are required to install 1999-2000 certified address-matching software as it becomes available from their vendors but no later than July 31, 1999.
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