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USPS agrees to defer barcode requirements for US mailers

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The US Postal Service has shelved plans to require business mailers to use its full service Intelligent Mail barcode in order to claim discounts for machine-sortable mailings.

The Postal Service had wanted to bring in the requirement for use of the barcode to improve the tracking capabilities of business mail services and the efficiency of the postal network.

But regulators ruled last month that it could not bring in the requirement at the same time as price increases, planned for 26 January 2014.

The Postal Regulatory Committee said the barcode requirement would have constituted an extra cost for businesses, and therefore was effectively an extra price increase for using postal services, which should be limited within the same inflation-based annual price cap.

USPS was offered the choice of delaying the barcode requirement or adjusting prices by a smaller amount next month.

On Friday the Postal Service confirmed under protest that it will defer the barcode requirement until a later date “after 2014″.

The Postal Service said it will be implementing its inflation-based price increase for First Class Mail, Standard Mail and Periodicals on 26th January, 2014, as proposed.

In complying with the ruling by the Postal Regulatory Commission, USPS accused the Commission of overstepping its authority and “improperly” involving itself in postal operations under US postal regulations.

The Postal Service told regulators: “The intent of the Congress in passing the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was to afford the Postal Service true pricing flexibility, unencumbered by the Commission’s own vestigial views on pricing. The Commission’s findings on the Full-Service IMb issue ignore that Congressional intent, inappropriately expand the scope of the price cap, and erode whatever pricing flexibility the Postal Service purportedly enjoys.”


The Intelligent Mail barcode provides full visibility in the USPS mail network, and associated benefits for USPS and business mailers

In a message to customers, USPS went further in stating its disagreement with the regulators’ “ill-conceived” decision.

The cash-strapped company suggested that the regulators were holding it back from launching new services making use of the tracking system.

The Postal Service said being forced to delay the full Intelligent Mail barcode requirements would “hinder the Postal Service’s ability to promote a technology that enhances the value of mail, which is critical to the development of next-generation digital products and services”.

USPS suggested that last week’s ruling by the Commission demonstrated why the regulator should have supervisory powers for postal pricing stripped, with the powers handed to the Postal Service Board of Governors.

The deregulation of postal pricing is one proposal that has been made within postal reforms floated by Congress in order to help USPS improve its business model to safeguard the universal service following the current postal financial crisis.

Full Service

USPS said on Friday that following the deferment of its IMb requirement, mailers would still be able to claim automation rates for their mail without complying with the IMb Full Service criteria from 26 January, but “to achieve the best pricing, however, mailers must continue meeting Full-Service requirements”.

The Postal Service still aims to have 100% of its business customers meeting the Full Service requirements, and said on Friday it will continue moving “aggressively” to achieve that.

In return for complying with the Full Service requirements and adding the IMb barcodes on each mailpiece, mailers can track mail and delivery performance, extra mail discounts, access simplified permitting requirements and free address correction services.

A new Intelligent Mail Small Business Tool has been developed to allow SMEs to become Full Service mailers.

Source: Post&Parcel/USPS/PRC

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