• 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 May 17th, 2010 in Products & Services | 23 comments
    “If it fits, it ships.” If this sounds familiar, you probably heard it from the Postal Service’s Priority Mail® Flat Rate advertising campaign broadcasted on TV or radio. The Flat Rate option offers a simpler way to ship — whatever fits in the flat rate box or envelope (up to 70 pounds) ships for one rate to anywhere in the United States. There is virtually no weighing or calculating. The packages reach their destinations in 1 to 3 days. Normally, Priority Mail prices are based on weight and destination. To increase overall package revenue and market share, the Postal Service launched a highly-integrated, national marketing campaign in May 2009. The campaign is still running as of May 2010. To promote the benefits of Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, the campaign uses TV, direct mail, print and digital advertising, retail point of purchase, and more. Postal Service management shared the campaign messaging with employees through a May 2009 direct mailing. These are two of the recent Priority Mail Flat Rate TV commercials: •Clowns AdvertisementMail Man Advertisement

    Has Priority Mail added value to your shipping needs? What kind of value? Prior to using Priority Mail Flat Rate, were you using a major delivery service such as UPS or FedEx? Specifically, what caused you to switch? If you have not used Priority Mail service, what would you consider the most important reason for not using the service? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit Field Financial - West team.

  • on Apr 26th, 2010 in OIG | 195 comments
    The debate about the Postal Service’s future is heating up and Pushing the Envelope is interested in your views. Last week the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on the Future of the Postal Service. The week before there was a hearing in the House on the Postal Service’s financial crisis and future viability, and on April 12, the Government Accountability Office issued a report laying out the strategies and options to maintain the Postal Service’s viability. Some of the strategies under discussion include: • Ending Saturday delivery. • Reducing the size of the workforce. • Making postal employees pay the same share of health and life insurance premiums that other federal employees pay. • Generating revenue through new products. • Allowing the Postal Service more pricing freedom. • Restructuring the Postal Service’s network of mail processing facilities. • Moving retail services from Post Offices to alternative access options. One item that is generating a great deal of discussion is whether the large payments the Postal Service must make for retiree health benefits should be restructured. One option is to give back some of the excess pension funding and allow the Postal Service to use these funds for other purposes. In January, the Office of Inspector General for the Postal Service issued a report that found the Postal Service had been overcharged $75 billion for its pension obligations from 1971 to 2009 because of an inequitable method of calculating the size of those obligations. Adding to this inequity is the fact that the Postal Service is currently required to fund 100 percent of its retiree health and pension obligations. Very few in private industry do this, and the rest of the federal government’s pension funding level is only 41 percent. In addition, the OIG believes that the forecast of the Postal Service’s future retiree health care costs is too high. Fixing these issues could save the Postal Service $7 billion a year. What do you think? Which strategies will be most useful to the Postal Service? Should the mix of strategies include cutting delivery service?
     
    This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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