Remarkable. After remaining virtually dormant for the first six years of Move Update’s life, the U.S. Postal Service is putting First-Class mailers’ feet to the fire with the national launch of the regulation’s enforcement element.
The free ride is ending. And it’s about time. Accepting the honesty of First-Class mailers at face value has cost the USPS a significant chunk of the $1.9 billion it expends yearly to handle undeliverable mail. Yes, that’s a strong statement but it is supported with facts:
o 2.1 billion mail pieces are forwarded annually.
o 1.3 billion are returned to sender.
These are mostly for the benefit of First-Class mailers and usually without additional cost.
Not so surprising though, the USPS created chaos and consternation as it stumbled through its testing phase of Move Update compliance. The resulting brouhaha demanded that two standards be set to ensure fair and consistent procedures of enforcement.
The first relates to accountability. That means citing noncompliant list owners for producing undeliverable mail rather than mail service providers (i.e., lettershops and presort bureaus). The second standard sets procedures to ensure consistent assessment of “deficiency reimbursements” (a kinder, gentler phrase for paying back postage discounts that were unfairly taken and not earned).
These matters were acted on by a special work group formed by the Mailers Technical Advisory Council. In a very brief time, the work group, which consisted of 40 industry and postal volunteers, cut to the chase and came forth with solid recommendations. The most visible and immediate is the introduction of Postal Service Form 6014, which holds list owners accountable for complying with Move Update’s requirements.
This form is available and should be used by every First-Class mailer. Also, presort bureaus and lettershops should not accept First-Class mail assignments without a signed copy of the P.S. 6014 form. The form can be found on the postal service’s Web site: www.usps.com/forms/firstclass.htm, then click on the form listing.
Undeliverable-as-addressed mail is caused by list owners, and it is they who must be held accountable, not the mail service providers they engage to prepare the mail or the brokers they employ to market and buy their lists. However, brokers, presort bureaus and lettershops have the responsibility as direct mail professionals to promote address hygiene and avoid entering corrupted addresses in the mail stream.
Nonetheless, the list owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring proper work-share effort has been performed (name/address updates) to qualify for the front-end postage discounts taken. Standard-class mailers submit a CASS document that states they have performed address standardization to the list as means to earn postage discounts. First-Class mailers are now required to acknowledge their compliance to Move Update by completing P.S. Form 6014.
The form carries a March 2003 date, and is now a standard part of the mail entry process in the same way as the CASS form is used. Knowledge is power and ignorance is anything but bliss when so much is at stake. The wise list owner and mail service provider will present this document along with the mail rather than have the BMEU representative refuse acceptance for lack of the form.
Review of the test phase for imposing compliance of Move Update revealed a need to set forth standards to ensure consistency of enforcement across all 87 USPS districts. Postal headquarters held a national training program in March where this issue was addressed.
An established standard gives mailers a degree of assurance that one district isn’t more severe than another. Also important is appropriate literature. A “rule book” ensures all players know how the game is to be played.