For several years, mailers have been reading reports and receiving briefings about the US Postal Service’s (USPS) about postage assessments based on results of the Mailer Scorecard. When the Mailer Scorecard was introduced in 2013, the probable date for assessments was July of 2014. However, there were issues with the reliability of the quality metrics. In presentations to Postal Customer Councils (PCC) and Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), the USPS proposed assessments to begin in April and July of 2015. Those deadlines came and went.
Early this year, it seemed that the bugs were worked out, and the assessments would begin in July 2016. But in May, the USPS announced another postponement. Under the current plan, the assessments will begin in November 2016, based on October mailings. Unless there’s another delay. And there may be.
The principles behind the assessment are good. Establish metrics that can be verified in 4 key areas:
- Full-Service Verifications: Compares the eDoc against the Full-Service preparation requirements.
- eInduction Validation: Confirms qualification for the entry/zone discount claimed.
- Seamless Acceptance: Validates qualification for rate claimed.
- Move-Update Validation: Checks for compliance with address hygiene rules.
By confirming what actually occurs at the piece-level, assessments are not made against an entire mailing, but only against the pieces that exceeded the error threshold. The USPS will monitor for problem areas and aggregate issues over a month. The results will be finalized on the 10th of each month, with assessment reports generated on the 11th. Mailers than have 10 days to check the report, and either pay or request a USPS review. By the end of the month, the USPS will update the report or reject the claim and close the report. Any payments are then due within 3 business days.
Details about the scorecard and the assessments are available online in the Guide to Streamlined Mail Acceptance For Letters and Flats Reporting(only 187 pages!). There are Mailer Scorecard Hotline Webinars that will be held every Wednesday and Friday at 2PM (EDT) through October 2016. No need to register in advance, but just join through the Attendee Direct URL, or by calling in (US/Canada Attendee Dial-In: 1-855-860-7461 - Conference Code: 867 702 1992). If a mailer can’t wait for the webinars, they should report any issues through the PostalOne! Helpdesk at 800-522-9085 or via email at email@example.com. Include the phrase “Mailer Scorecard” in the subject line of the email.
It looks like all systems are “Go!” for November. Yet there may be more delays. In a recent bulletin, the USPS announced that there’s still an issue that “impacts a small number of eInduction mailers”. The issue involves containers containing sacks, and is supposed to be resolved with a system enhancement scheduled to be implemented in November 2016. One month after the October reviews. The announcement didn’t explain how the misreported errors will be handled.
But that may not be the biggest issue. The entire assessment process hasn’t been reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). When asked, postal officials explained that they didn’t intend to request the PRC’s approval. The USPS made that same decision several years ago, when they proposed to require the Full Service IMb for postage discounts. The PRC ruled that the Full Service IMb requirement constituted a rate increase, forcing the USPS deferring the requirement.
Are the assessments a rate increase? Probably not, as it doesn’t redefine or delete any rate cell. However, the assessments do involve assigning a postage value to mailpieces. So perhaps a better question is - Are the assessments new postage rates?
It’s not unlikely that the PRC will make a ruling on the assessments – whether the USPS asks them or not. The USPS may charge an assessment 6 to 8 weeks after a mailing is accepted. Many mail service providers are challenged by how those assessments will impact how to properly bill customers. Many mailers are still struggling with local post offices not being prepared to accept Full Service - eInduction mailings. More system issues may be uncovered before October.
In the future, the USPS will charge assessments, so mailers should be prepared. And be prepared to wait.