*USPS Proposes New CMRA Ruling

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The US Postal Service, Washington, yesterday proposed a new rule on the addressing requirements for individuals or small mail-order companies who want to receive their mail at commercial mail receiving agencies such as Mail Boxes Etc.


The USPS is allowing mail sent to these CMRAs to include either a PMB designation or the pound sign on the second line of the mailing address to signify it as a CMRA mailbox, rather than an apartment or suite number.


In October, the USPS announced these modifications to the original set of rules, which were announced last March and required CMRAs to include the PMB designation-without the choice of using the pound sign.


According to the USPS, the designation would both provide CMRA mailbox holders' correspondents with the true identity of the mailing address of the mailbox holder -- ensuring that the public would be aware that the address is not a physical location and thereby discourage fraudulent or deceptive practices that might adversely affect senior citizens and other consumers, businesses, and even federal, state, and local governments.


However, after several meetings between the USPS and groups representing the CMRA industry -- including small businesses, small and home office operators, and government organizations -- the USPS leaned that the use of the ``PMB'' designation would have a negative effect on the businesses of CMRA mailbox holders.


These groups asserted that some consumers might be discouraged from doing business with CMRA mailbox holders due to perceptions that those businesses are somehow ``unsavory.''


The USPS backed off on the proposal after hundreds of box renters protested that the address change would cost them a fortune in lost sales and new stationery. There also was no way to inform all potential correspondents of the new requirements, the USPS said.


. In its ruling, the USPS said the agency "believes that the rule adopted on (last March) best serves the consumer protection needs of the American public, it nevertheless wishes to balance this goal with the concerns of the small business community. The Postal Service believes that the proposal outlined herein balances these interests."


The USPS' current rule is listed in the Federal Register and open for public comment until April 12.


In January, the USPS also modified privacy rules surrounding private mailboxes at commercial mail receiving agencies.


The original rules require individuals that want to receive their mail at CMRAs, to fill out forms with significant personal information -- such as photo identification and verification that they either live or conduct business at the address given -- at the time of the rental.


While the USPS said the rules were designed to prevent mail fraud, the provision set off privacy alarms. By law, anyone could request the information on the forms from the local post office. Hundreds of box renters and rental stores complained that the new regulations imposed undue expenses on honest small-business operators.


The modified rules -- which were filed as a final rule in the Federal Register -- include a new set of guidelines and allow for the release of information only to law enforcement officers.


In that notice, the USPS said it was modifying the rule "in response to concerns for the safety of battered individuals, their children, stalking victims and other persons who consider themselves at risk of harm if their physical location is not kept private [and] to provide a greater degree of privacy and security to the growing number of small business owners who operate out of the home."


It does require mailbox renters to continue providing the renting agency with photo identification, such as a driver's license, passport, government or "recognized" corporate identification card, and verification that they either live or conduct business at the address given at the time of the rental.
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