Readying for Another Postal Rate Increase
By Gene A. Del Polito
Any direct marketer with a pulse knows that sometime early next year, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will implement a schedule of new, higher postal rates. While the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) has not yet handed down its decision in this matter, we do know that the USPS has asked the PRC to pass along some of the highest percentage rate increases to those who market their goods through mail order catalogs.
For instance, while the average increase sought from First Class Mail is a relatively modest 3.6 percent, the increases in those rate categories used most often by catalogers are substantially higher, i.e., 13.8 percent for barcoded, automation-rated flats and 7.5 percent for non-automatable flats.
To make matters worse, for those who mail catalogs weighing more than a pound, the USPS is seeking an average 18-percent increase in Bound Printed Matter rates. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the USPS is seeking to increase the Standard A parcel surcharge from the present 10 cents per piece to 18 cents per piece and increase Priority Mail rates (often used for fulfillment) by 15 percent. It almost seems as if the Postal Service is endeavoring to squelch mail order growth.
Fortunately, these are proposed rates, and something still may change the Rate Commission outcome before any new rates are implemented. Mailers and mailing-industry representatives, such as the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), are actively involved in all facets of the quasi-judicial regulatory process by which postal rates are set. Indeed, PostCom is working jointly with others within our industry to see what can be done to reverse some of the ills the Postal Service would have us bear.
The case the Postal Service has set before the PRC is a comprehensive and complicated one. There are, in fact, several areas being contested in this case, including issues pertaining to the overall amount of new revenue the Postal Service is seeking, automation-related cost savings for which the USPS has failed to fully account, cost data sorely lacking to justify the USPS' proposed increase in the Standard A parcel surcharge and others.