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under new rules enacted by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which gave the USPS additional rate authority categories that allowed it to increase prices above CPI. The litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals is to determine whether the PRC had the authority to make these changes, and the outcome of that proceeding is still to come.

First, mailers need to budget for and prepare for the possibility of two price changes in the same year going forward.

next year, along with some thoughts on how to deal with them. Postal Price Changes By the time this article is published, the USPS will have implemented its August 29 price change for market dominant products, barring any last minute “stay” by the U.S. Court of Appeals where events that led to this price change are being litigated. This price change is notable for several reasons — first, it comes in summer versus the January price changes that the industry has become accustomed to. Second, it was unexpected, so mailers did not budget for these increases. Third, it is the highest USPS price change for market dominant products since the current laws governing the USPS were enacted late in 2006. The reason for all these notable factors is the same — this is the first USPS price change

At the time this article was written, the USPS had just announced a temporary peak surcharge on its Competitive Services products (parcels) and also started preparing for a January 2022 annual price change for parcels (no details had been shared at this point) that may also contain new fees and other structural changes for parcels. Whether the USPS will also change market dominant prices again in January 2022 was unknown at the time this article was written. If the USPS did so, it would only be able to raise prices up to the CPI, because the PRC does not determine the annual amounts the USPS may use for the new additional rate authority until March/April, so they could not be included in a January 2022 price change. Of course, the USPS could increase prices in January 2022 up to CPI and then do another change in summer 2022 to use the additional rate authority (like it did this year). So, what can mailers do to mitigate these price changes? First, mailers need to budget for and prepare for the possibility of two price changes in the same year going forward. That does not mean it will definitely happen, or that it will happen every year, but better to be prepared than not. In addition, there are strategies that mailers should be exploring if they are not already doing so.

The USPS has increased the discounts for some of its promotions, as well as increased the length of some promotions. These programs offer mailers some significant discounts, as well as helping drive their return on investment with mail. Being able to take advantage of USPS discounts from promotions — as well as increasing response rates — will help mitigate increases in USPS prices. Another strategy mailers should be exploring is using a commingler (letters) or comailer (flats) to prepare and enter their mail. Commingle and comail are tried and true programs that have been available for some years and continue to grow throughout the industry because they have many advantages for mailers. By combining mailings from different companies prior to USPS entry, comminglers and comailers sort mail to the deepest depth possible (more than the mailer can achieve on their own, in most cases), as well as entering it deeper into the USPS network to achieve better service performance. These providers also take away from mailers the resource-intensive stresses of meeting Full-Service or Seamless Acceptance requirements. These businesses are professionals who work closely with the USPS, are familiar with its products, services, and mail entry and preparation requirements, and they can work with mailers to find ways to reduce postage costs and improve their ROI. Mailers (including printers) who are preparing and entering mail should explore the benefits of using a commingler/comailer because there are postage discounts, improved service performance, and many related services available from these providers. If you haven’t looked at these providers recently, check them out. In addition, mailers should be looking at the total picture when it comes to mail ROI. Yes, postage prices are going up, but the new rules also present improvements in workshare discounts; the promotion discounts present opportunity to improve the overall ROI of mail; and there are many ways that mailers can look to improve their overall ROI from mail -— ensuring that mailing lists are current and correct, optimizing mail piece design to obtain the best response rates, ensuring that as much mail as possible qualifies for all available postage discounts, integrating digital and hardcopy marketing, and more! Go back to | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021