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USPS to test cross-border e-commerce returns service

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The US Postal Service is preparing to test a new product returns service for e-commerce merchants selling abroad.

The International Merchandise Return Service (IMRS) would allow foreign consumers to return unwanted products back to the US after being purchased on American websites.

The competitive shipping service would create return labels with postage payment, allowing the consumer to print off a label and return the item through the post.

Consumers will be able to send back items up to 30kg in weight through the IMRS via the postal air mail or express mail system, and the service will offer tracking.

The service is being tested for online sales into Canada and Australia, under agreements with Canada Post and Australia Post, but could be extended to other countries if additional bilateral deals are agreed.

Filing with regulators this month, USPS said: “This market test will encourage growth of cross-border commerce through the postal channel. Returns are an inevitable part of international online commerce, and customers consider the use of returns as an important aspect of international shipping.”

The Postal Service added: “The service offering is designed to improve the return experience for customers, and thereby generate more package deliveries that do not currently exist within the postal system.”


USPS said within documents filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission that its market test will run for two years, starting on or shortly after 15th August, 2013.

As a market test product, USPS will be limited to generating $10m a year in revenue through the service, unless it applies to make the service permanent.

Recent research from the IPC suggests that online retailers in the United States find fulfillment of orders to consumers outside the country too complicated, with returns cited as a “major hurdle” to selling abroad.

USPS said the need for an international return service for larger, heavier, or more valuable items was previously unmet by the postal channel.

The Postal Service said its only existing international returns solution is the Universal Union International Business Reply Service. However, that is only for letters and cards up to 50g in weight – only Canada has a bilateral agreement allowing return of items up to 2kg on that service – and does not offer tracking.

The new service will be offered to online retailers through one-year negotiated service agreements during the two-year test period.

If successful, the International Merchandise Returns Service would become a permanent product, USPS told regulators.

The new service is part of wider Postal Service efforts to grow its profitable parcel shipping volumes as First Class Mail volumes decline, competing against the returns services offered by FedEx, UPS and DHL to generate more parcel deliveries that are not currently made through the postal system.

Source: Post&Parcel/PRC

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One Response to “USPS to test cross-border e-commerce returns service”

  • Anonymous says:

    Does anyone have details on this service i.e. how will the returning goods be treated from a duty and tax perspective and other government agencies regulations?

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Direct Link Worldwide Ltd

Direct Link specialises in international cross border distribution and returns of e-commerce packages worldwide. Parent company PostNord (the merged Swedish and Danish Post Offices) supports Direct Link with IT expertise, postal connections and international logistics solutions, across the Nordic countries and intercontinentally.


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