USPS proposes new address quality standards

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The U.S. Postal Service published a notice in the Federal Register on May 23 proposing new standards for address quality.

The proposal would extend the Move Update requirement to all Standard Mail pieces and would require mailers to perform Move Update processing for discounted First-Class Mail and Standard Mail no more than 95 days prior to mailing.

"The changes we are proposing to the Move Update standards are needed to improve the level of address quality for mailings entered at discounted First-Class Mail and Standard Mail rates and will result in higher-quality addressing on mail pieces and in timely delivery to intended recipients," the Postal Service said in the filing.

The Move Update, the process for updating names and addresses, is one many of ways to help mailers reach their customers in an efficient and cost-effective way. It is currently required for mailers to obtain discounted rates for First-Class Mail. All address records used on pieces in discounted-rate mailings of First-Class Mail must be matched with customer-filed change-of-address orders received and maintained by the USPS using a USPS-approved method within 185 days of the date of mailing.

The proposal includes extending the Move Update requirement to all Standard Mail and reducing the window for Move Update processing of names and addresses used for mailings of discounted First-Class Mail from 185 days to 95 days prior to mailing. The revised timeframe would apply to all pieces in Standard Mail mailings.

As for the Standard Mail changes, the USPS said in its filing that a key reason it is extending Move Update to Standard Mail is that mail is entered as Standard Mail accounts for 62.8 percent of all undeliverable-as-addressed mail volume.

Further, the USPS's filling said: "The percent of Standard Mail that was UAA was higher than the percent for any other class of mail (Standard Mail was 6.4 percent; First-Class Mail 3.4 percent; Periodicals 2.2 percent; and Package Services 3.0 percent)."

In addition, the agency said the majority of UAA Standard Mail is disposed of as waste and that only a small percent of mail is endorsed for forwarding or return.

"In fact, in 2004 we disposed of approximately 6 billion Standard Mail mailpieces at a cost of almost $248 million," the USPS said.

As for increasing the frequency of use of Move Update processing, the USPS said that about 14 percent of all Americans move each year. In 2006, for example, families and individuals filed more than 41 million change-of-address orders. In that same year, there were 2.3 million business filings.

"With such a dynamic environment, managing addresses affected by customer moves is challenging," the Postal Service said. "On average, the monthly rate of deterioration of address currency, due to family and individual moves alone, is approximately 1.2 percent.

"In six months (the current Move Update requirement for discounted First-Class Mail), about 7.2 percent of addresses in your files have the potential to be inaccurate.

"To minimize this natural deterioration we are proposing that Move Update processing be completed closer to the mailing date. By reducing the processing window from 185 days to 95 days prior to the mailing date, the natural deterioration of address currency can be expected to significantly decrease UAA volume and the costs associated with the redirection and rehandling (including disposal) of mail."

The USPS also said it would provide a minimum 18-month implementation phase from the date of the May 23 notice to allow mailers of discounted First-Class Mail and Standard Mail sufficient time to make modifications necessary to comply with the proposed Move Update standards.

The USPS is also asking for comments on the proposal from the mailing community by June 22.

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