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USPS pushes back Intelligent Mail barcode implementation

Postmaster General John Potter announced today that the US Postal Service will push back the date of implementation for the Intelligent Mail barcode from January 2009 to May 2009.

In an advisory notice, Potter wrote that the decision to change the date was in response to public feedback. “Many of you told us that January 2009 was too soon,” he wrote. “We will propose a May 2009 implementation, concurrent with our next annual price change.”

“To be clear, this does not mean [we] will in any way slow down our activities between now and January 2009,” said Tom Day, SVP of Intelligent Mail and address quality for the USPS, when reached by e-mail. Rather, the May 2009 implementation is in recognition of valid concerns raised by many in the mailing industry.

“Our efforts to work with the mailing industry to implement Intelligent Mail will continue at the same pace,” Day said. “We simply have five additional months to achieve this objective.”

In March, the USPS will host four symposiums on Intelligent Mail in Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Atlanta. Intelligent Mail will also be a topic of discussion at the upcoming National Postal Forum in May and at the National Postal Customer Council Day in September, Day added.

The USPS first started seeking feedback on proposed rules related to the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode in December. At that time, the USPS said that mailers would have to use one of two proposed Intelligent Mail options in order to qualify for automation prices for letters and flats after January 2009.

However, in today’s notice, Potter said that the Postnet barcode will remain eligible for automation prices until May 2010. “Those prices will be announced with the May 2009 change,” he wrote.

Potter said that the USPS plans to publish its proposed rulemaking on the Intelligent Mail barcode in the Federal Register next month. The new proposal will include new options for mail owner identification. He said that the USPS is also eliminating the requirement for green color bars on the container label, a concern that was also brought up at the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting in January.

Potter also said that the new May 2009 implementation of the Intelligent Mail barcode will include separate prices for the full-service and basic options. “We understand from you that many factors will drive the choice between the basic and full-service options,” he wrote.

In December, the USPS announced that mailers would have a choice between the two Intelligent Mail options. The full-service option would require that unique Intelligent Mail barcodes be applied to the following three categories: letter and flat mailpieces, handling units such as trays and sacks, and containers. Postage statements and mailing documentation would also need to be submitted electronically. The basic option would require mailers to use Intelligent Mail barcodes on mailpieces, but not on trays and containers.

The Intelligent Mail barcode was developed by the USPS to encode routing and tracking information on mail. While the Postnet barcode only contains the routing code, the Intelligent Mail barcode includes fields that identify the mailer and class of mail, encode special services, and uniquely number each mailpiece.

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