USPS urges customers to switch from POSTNET to IMb barcodes

USPS is urging users of its POSTNET barcode system to switch to the new Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) system if they want to keep all their postage discounts for business mail. The Postal Service has been phasing out its old barcode system this year in favour of the more capable IMb system.

This week saw USPS writing to 800,000 business mailers who hold a POSTNET permit to encouraging them to start making the transition to IMb.

If they don’t make the switch by 28th January, 2013, those mailers will no longer be eligible for discounts for business mail prepared to standards for automated processing.

Companies that use a mail service provider are also being advised to check that their mailings will qualify for the automation price.

All Permit Reply Mail and Qualified Business Reply Mail are also required to have the IMb code for their full discounts.

The IMb system was first introduced in January 2009 and currently supports two options – basic and full service. Basic has fewer preparation requirements, and is easier to implement, but full service offers better discounts and tools like address correction and better intelligence on the mail stream, but preparation standards generally require specialist software to achieve.

From January 2014 automation prices will only be available for those on full service IMb.

Pritha Mehra, the USPS vice president mail entry & payment technology, said: “By starting the transition to the Intelligent Mail barcode now, you will continue to benefit from automation prices and will set the foundation to participate in the Intelligent Mail Full-Service option.”

Mehra said mailers could get more information about the IMb system through the RIBBS website, while help could also be provided by their nearest Business Mail Entry Office.

Full service

USPS published proposed rules in the Federal Register on Wednesday (17th October) on the move to require full service IMb on all mail seeking automation prices.

Comments from stakeholders are being invited until 16th November.

USPS said it recognised that “significant” changes would be required for mailers currently benefiting from automation discounts, and said it will therefore attempt to minimise the impact that requiring full service IMb will have on smaller or infrequent mailers.

Additional tools and simplified requirements would be offered to these mailers, it said.

USPS wants to create 100% visibility in its mail stream by 2014, providing mailers with near real-time data on the location of mailpieces within the network, the time of delivery for full-service IMb mail, and also address correction.

It said full visibility would mean mailers able to respond more effectively to their customers’ inquiries on the status of bills, statements, catalogues and other publications.

Permit fees will be waived for mailings that are at least 90% full-service mailpieces, and mailers will be able to use a national account to mail through, rather than needing to use local permits at each mail entry destination.

For the Postal Service, the IMb system will allow a better monitoring of the processing network, and the ability to react quickly to problems in order to avoid delays. Simplified acceptance processes and better planning for volumes coming through the system will also mean more efficient and cost-effective services, USPS said.

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