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PRC Most Likely to Issue Decision on Rate Increase By Halloween

ATLANTA — DMers could be in for a scare this Halloween.

The Postal Rate Commission likely will offer its recommended decision before the end of the month to implement a 5.4 percent across-the-board rate increase, Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said at DMA·05.

The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, whose approval is needed, will meet shortly thereafter and likely vote to implement the increase. The rates are expected to take effect Monday, Jan. 16, Cerasale said.

“January 16 is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which would allow the postal service to get their processing facilities ready over a two-day period when they do not receive any mail,” he said.

The outcome is never certain, he said, and if postal finances are better than anticipated, the new rates could be held back. The DMA signed onto a settlement for the 5.4 percent increase in September, Cerasale said, along with most mailers and the USPS. One mailer, Val-Pak, did not and requested an increase of less than 5.4 percent for letter-shaped Standard mail and greater than 5.4 percent for flat-shaped Standard mail.

Cerasale also discussed postal reform in his legislative update. A bill passed the House in July, and he said the DMA is working on compromises with senators to move the Senate bill forward before Thanksgiving.

However, even if the bill passes the Senate, issues remain. One is that the Bush administration has a large federal budget deficit, and pension-related elements of the reform bills would add to the deficit. As a result, the administration is unlikely to sign off on reform. Another is that a cap difference exists between the House and Senate bills, which would require a House-Senate conference if the Senate bill goes through.

Cerasale said the DMA is watching numerous bills in Congress regarding data security. He also discussed issues including spyware, privacy laws, do-not-call, CAN-SPAM Act implementation and do-not-mail bills.

A bill by Sen. Jon Corzine, D-NJ, would prohibit telemarketers from placing unwanted solicitation calls to people eligible for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit coverage.

Cerasale also spoke about a children's e-mail registry that is in effect in Utah and delayed in Michigan. The DMA is working with state officials to clarify provisions in the registries and to change a fee structure “that is outrageous,” he said. “To obtain a name on one of these registries, these states are charging 3 cents per address every 30 days.”

Cerasale said the DMA is working to change some CAN-SPAM provisions. It wrote this month to the Federal Trade Commission, backing the FTC having broader authority to pursue cross-border spammers, a 10-day versus three-day opt-out implementation and a change in the definition of what a seller is in joint marketing.

Finally, Cerasale said the DMA is working with the USPS and other groups to fight do-not-mail registries proposed in New York, Massachusetts and Missouri.

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