• on Jun 20th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 7 comments
    Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins. E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth. Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives? Yes or no, and why? This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • 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.

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