• on Jul 7th, 2010 in Pricing & Rates | 13 comments
    The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) ushered in a new regulatory structure for the U.S. Postal Service. One key element was a price cap on market dominant products. (Most of the Postal Service's products are market dominant.) This means that price increases for market dominant products are capped by the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). PAEA, however, does allow the Postal Service to increase its prices beyond the CPI cap under “extraordinary and exceptional circumstances.” The Postal Service makes the exception by filing an ‘exigent’ rate case to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). Before the Postal Service can increase prices, the PRC must agree with the ‘exigent’ request and find it to be reasonable, equitable, and necessary.

    This week the Postal Service proposed an exigent rate increase, an average of 5.6 percent across all classes of mail, effective January 2011. The direct mail industry has challenged the increase, threatening legal action and warning that the Postal Service will suffer large drops in mail volume. Much of the industry’s objection has centered on whether the Postal Service’s current circumstances are really “extraordinary and exceptional.” The Postal Service has based its case on the significant decline in mail volume and revenue, caused by the economic recession. In addition, because inflation has been low, the Postal Service has a small margin under the cap to raise prices. Some might argue that a price cap based on consumer items such as food, apparel, and electronics might not be the best metric for the Postal Service, because its costs are based on fuel, salaries, and health benefits. What do you think of the exigent price increase? Is it important to the continued viability of the Postal Service or should other revenue and cost reduction opportunities be explored first? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Jun 14th, 2010 in Pricing & Rates | 11 comments
    The Postal Service has more than 10,000 prices contained in a 1,800-page customer manual known as the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM provides individual and commercial mailers with information about postal services and standards for both domestic and international mailings. The Price List, also known as Notice 123, contains domestic and international retail and commercial prices for all postal products and services. The list covers every price from mailing one First-Class Mail® letter to paying for a 100,000-piece mailing that has been presorted and transported closer to its final destination. If the mailer wants extra services such as Signature Confirmation, Collection on Delivery, or insurance, prices for these services are also provided. Does the Postal Service need more than 10,000 prices for its products and services? Can the Postal Service significantly reduce the number and complexity of prices?

    Share your ideas on how improvements could be made to the Postal Service’s DMM and prices, and what the Postal Service can do to significantly reduce the number of prices. Or tell us why you feel the current DMM and pricing structure should remain unchanged. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit Capital Investments team.

  • on Jan 4th, 2010 in Pricing & Rates | 10 comments
    The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) changed the way the Postal Service sets rates. It divided postal services into two broad categories: market dominant (mailing services) and competitive (shipping services). Market dominant products constitute about 90 percent of postal revenue. They include First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, and some Package Services. Products such as Priority Mail, Express Mail, and bulk Parcel Post are considered competitive. The PAEA placed a cap on price increases for market dominant products. The Postal Service is now permitted to make annual price changes after limited review by the Postal Regulatory Commission, but the average increase for each class of mail cannot be greater than the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The Postal Service can request a rate increase above the cap due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.

    When the PAEA was passed in December 2006, the Postal Service was still experiencing annual increases in mail volume. However, the recent, rapid drop in mail volume and revenue has forced the Postal Service into a financial crisis. The Postal Service’s Integrated Financial Plan for fiscal year 2010 forecasts a net loss of $7.8 billion. Since the Postal Service has substantial fixed costs, as mail volume falls, the Postal Service may have limited ability under the price cap to generate sufficient revenue to fund its network. Inflation was flat in 2009, so there was no room to raise prices under the cap this year. The Postal Service could have requested a rate increase above the cap due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances, but it has announced that there will be no price increase in 2010 for First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, and Parcel Post.

    What do you think?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Cost, Revenue, and Rates directorate.

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