On Monday, November 14, 2016, the US Postal Service (USPS) sent out their first assessments of Full-Service Mail Quality Metrics over an established threshold (based on October 2016 data on the Mailer Scorecard). It may look similar to a bill for postage due, because no matter how the USPS spins it, that’s what the assessments are. If you “remove the Full-Service Discount” for a mailing that took place in the past, you’re asking for postage that wasn’t paid at the time of mailing.
Sounds like a bill. Looks like a bill. It’s a bill.
Semantics aside – did your mail service provide (MSP) or presort vendor receive an assessment? Did they receive an assessment on mail they processed for your company? Do they plan on passing the assessment on to your company?
The USPS sends the assessment to whoever submitted the e-documentation that accompanied the mailing. In most cases, this is the MSP or the presort vendor. The recipient has 10 business days to challenge the assessment. One option is to refer the USPS to the vendor’s client, as identified by the Customer Registration ID (CRID). Or the vendor could pay the assessment, and bill the client separately.
As a reminder, the assessments are calculated under 4 categories:
- Full Service Error Thresholds
- Move Update Error Thresholds (to be determined)
- eInduction Error Thresholds
- Seamless Acceptance Error Thresholds
Who should be liable for the assessments if the error thresholds are exceeded? Well, it depends. Does the vendor create the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) or does the customer pass along a fully-composed print file, including the IMb? Does the vendor run the file (or mailpieces) through NCOALink or does the customer maintain responsibility for Move Update compliance? Who creates and transmits the Mail.dat files?
If they haven’t already done so, mailers, their MSPs and presort vendors should meet and discuss the Mailer Scorecard, potential errors and responsibility for paying assessments. The agreements should be documented and added to the existing contract. A simple addendum will ensure fewer issues if the USPS does apply an assessment. All new contracts or renewals should include a section on regular reviews of the Mailer Scorecard, notification of any assessments, appeals and responsibility for payment.
In the meanwhile, all mailers – owners, MSPs and presort vendors – should be signing on to the Business Customer Gateway and reviewing their Mailer Scorecard. The USPS has made it easy to view mailings by the different vendors a company may use to process their mail. With weekly check-ups, customers will know how their mail is performing before the assessments are released the next month. MSPs and presort vendors will be able to see any problems with specific customers. Both sides can work together to resolve difficulties early in the process.
Documented agreements in contracts. Awareness around performance. Communication and cooperation. All essential elements to success in this new era of postal compliance.