US regulators seek changes to post office closing process

Postal regulators in the United States have put forward proposals that would prevent the US Postal Service from closing post offices until public appeals are completed. The Postal Regulatory Commission put forward the proposals to  require USPS to hold off on closing or consolidating a post office until an appeal has been decided. At present, a separate application has to be filed by postal customers to suspend closure of a facility even while an appeal is in process.

The Commission’s chairman, Ruth Goldway, issued a personal dissenting opinion earlier this summer in which she criticised the Postal Service for closing post offices prior to the conclusion of the appeals process.

The regulators’ proposals would also seek to simplify the appeals process when a post office is closed or consolidated.

The PRC said on Friday that the move would allow for a “speedier decision” when local communities appeal the decision by the US Postal Service to shutter a retail facility. It wants to streamline the process to allow a decision within 75 days of an appeal being filed, rather than the current 120 day period set out within US postal law.

The Commission also wants to clarify the scope of its own appeals authority and end public uncertainty over at what point an appeal can be filed against a post office closure.

The proposals are now open to public comment until October 3.

“The Commission is responding to the Postal Service’s efforts to close large numbers of post offices,” said Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway. “These rules are being considered to provide an improved review process for the expanding number of post office closure appeals that is simpler, fairer and easier to understand.”

The potential changes to the appeals process come as the Postal Service is seeking approval from the PRC for a plan in which up to 3,700 post offices could be closed from early next year.

Reviews of each facility are getting under way this fall, with the targeted post offices those which are only seeing enough business to stay open one or two hours per working day. The closure of such facilities, and moving of postal services to partner-run “village post offices” would save the Postal Service as much as $200m a year, executives believe.

The Postal Service currently has around 32,000 post offices around the US, but last week chief financial officer Joseph Corbett said in the long-term, with the changes in the way customers are using the Postal Service, that number could drop by as many as 20,000.

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