• on Aug 13th, 2012 in Products & Services | 29 comments
    More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million. The cost of mail forwarding – and returning to sender and treating as waste -- is baked into the overall First Class Mail rates, so all customers effectively pay for this service whether they use it or not. Canada Post has taken a different approach to mail forwarding, charging recipients either an annual or semi-annual fee when they move. Residential customers pay $75 for 12 months of forwarding and business customers pay $235. These prices increase slightly if the person or business moves to another province. The Canada Post model extricates the costs from the overall First Class Mail rate and is structured so recipients pay for the service, but only if they use it. Some U.S. business customers have requested that the Postal Service explore new pricing and product options to reduce the costs of forwarding and returning mail to sender. Would a model similar to the Canada Post one work in the U.S. or would residential recipients, in particular, feel like they were being charged for a service they thought was free? Should the sender pay for forwarding instead of the recipients? What would happen if recipients or senders decided against paying for forwarding? Would total costs merely go up since return to sender mail costs more than twice as much as forwarding per piece? Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts below.
  • on Dec 14th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 31 comments
    Did you know that one in seven people in the United States change their address each year? Naturally, this creates a tremendous challenge for the Postal Service, which strives to maintain a high-quality repository of current addresses.

    Change-of-address requests can be made in person at local Post Offices using a hardcopy form (PS 3575), or electronically using the Internet. They can even be made over the telephone. By far, the most popular way to change one’s official address is still using the hardcopy form, but those contemplating a move should consider their options carefully.

    While the Postal Service’s change-of-address process generally works properly, our audit found that improvements are needed in the way hard copy requests are processed, authorized, and validated. Although Postal Service employees should reject and return orders with no signature, in some cases change-of-address orders without a proper signature slipped through. We also saw signature mismatches and occasions when Postal Service employees rather than customers signed or initialed the forms.

    Is there a better way? We think there is. Our audit also examined the Internet and telephone change request systems. We found that these electronic alternatives are not only much more convenient for the customer, they are also far more effective in ensuring that only authorized and validated change-of-address requests are processed. Digital requests can be electronically matched against customers’ credentials quickly and efficiently. This results in a more secure environment, which is important because mail diverted to another location based upon unauthorized change-of-address orders is a major contributor to identity theft — America’s fastest growing crime.

    There has to be a catch, you say. Well, there is. This service costs $1. We think it’s a bargain! To change your address online, go to moversguide.usps.com. To change your address by telephone, call 1-800-275-8777.

    You should know the Postal Service does have systems in place to protect customers against unauthorized address changes. If a change of address has been submitted for you, the Postal Service will follow up with a Move Validation Letter. This letter is sent to your current address and notifies you that a request has been made to forward your mail to a new address. If you did not request to change your address, you should inform your local Post Office immediately as a potentially fraudulent situation may exist. In our audit, we found that the Postal Service generally sends these letters in a timely manner. Recently, the Postal Service has taken steps to further improve the timeliness of these letters, ensuring that they are processed within 3 to 10 days.

    What do you think about the Postal Service’s change-of-address process? How can it be improved?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Information Technology audit directorate.