Appeals Court reaches mixed decision on USPS/PRC IMb dispute

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit today handed down its decision in the lawsuit brought by the US Postal Service against the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) over the PRC’s attempt to regulate new Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) rules. Mailers had claimed that the regulations increased their costs, and therefore were price increases that needed to be counted against the postal service’s rate cap for “Market Dominant” services. The PRC sided with the mailers, so the USPS appealed to the Court, claiming that the law clearly prohibited the PRC from “characterizing mail preparation requirements as changes in rates.”

Today’s decision rejects the postal service’s claim, finding the law “ambiguous” on that point. But while the Court found that the PRC could determine that a change in the rules amounted to a rate hike, “The standard enunciated by the Commission to determine when requirements changes are ‘changes’ in rates” seems boundless and, thus, unreasonable; and the Commission’s inconsistent application of the standard in this case proves the point.” The Court went so far as to find that “The Commission’s judgment in this case ‘lacks any coherence. We therefore owe no deference to [the Commission’s] purported expertise because we cannot discern it. We therefore remand the case to the Commission to enunciate an intelligible standard and then reconsider its decision in light of that standard.”

The entire decision is available here (.pdf file).

Postal Service Relaxes Upcoming Requirements for Automation Prices

From the DMM Advisory:

Recognizing ongoing concerns about mailers’ readiness for broader adoption of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb®), the USPS® has decided that automation discounts for mail with POSTNET barcodes will continue to be offered beyond May 2011.

Today’s announcement, made following consultation with key industry leaders, means that mailers also may continue to use the POSTNET barcode for reply mail (such as Business Reply Mail (BRM), QBRM and Permit Reply Mail) and PLANET Code® for Confirm® Service.

The relaxing of requirements beyond the planned May POSTNET retirement timeframe allows for an easier transition to the full use of the IMb while continuing to receive automation discounts.

The value of the IMb is a proven technological advantage with more than 41 billion pieces of IMb-enabled mail processed by the USPS. As more Industry leaders continue to embrace the IMb, the Postal Service is committed to enhancing the benefits of Intelligent Mail Services.