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Nonprofit Mailer, USPS Settle Workshare Complaint

By Patrick Sullivan - April 5, 2013

The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers (ANM) has settled a dispute with the United States Postal Service regarding rules for worksharing discounts. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) accepted the agreement.

Worksharing discounts are price cuts given to mailers for taking some of the burden off of the post office by performing such actions as pre-sorting mail according to ZIP code. Six workshare discount rates, which went into effect January 27, are shallower for nonprofit mailers than commercial mailers; that is, nonprofit mailers receive less of a discount per piece of mail for the same work.

Section 403(c) of U.S. Code Title 39 prohibits discrimination among mail users unless the post office has a reasonable justification. In this case, the USPS said it could not equalize nonprofit and commercial rates “without setting the nonprofit base rate higher than would be most efficient and preferable from a policy perspective,” according to PRC Docket R2013-1.

The PRC accepted that explanation. ANM initiated a legal petition for review in January with the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit. ANM and the USPS came to a settlement, submitted to the PRC on March 13 and accepted at its Annual Compliance Review on March 28. As a result of the settlement, AMN will move to dismiss its petition for review.

According to the settlement, the Postal Service will identify each instance where nonprofit worksharing differs from commercial worksharing and provide a justification for the price difference. The PRC will review each instance. If it finds no suitable justification, the USPS will “provide an alternative schedule of nonprofit rates that (1) generates approximately the same total revenue as the rates proposed by the Postal Service, and (2) eliminates the noncompliance” with the title and section cited above.

“The Postal Service is obligated in future notices of price adjustments to identify and justify any differences between proposed nonprofit discounts and corresponding commercial discounts,” said PRC spokeswoman Gail Adams. “That obligation exists without any need for a Commission or participant request for such identification or justification.”

“The Alliance appreciates the help of the Postal Service and the Commission in resolving this issue. Protecting nonprofit mailers from discrimination has been a major concern of the Alliance for more than three decades,” wrote ANM Executive Director Anthony Conway via a statement.

Though the unequal rates will stand for the rest of the year, Conway is confident that when the USPS proposes new rate changes for 2014, “they will straighten out the (rates) that were askew.” The difference between the commercial workshare discount and nonprofit workshare discount is currently less than 15 percent in all cases of inequality.

“No rebates will be paid,” said Adams.

Conway chalks the unequal rates up to ignorance of the law that prevents discrimination without a good reason. “That’s why we exist, to remind (the USPS and PRC) of these things,” said Conway. “They’ve agreed to the fact that legally they’d have to justify (unequal rates). We’re pretty confident this will take care of the problem going forward.”

The USPS declined to comment.

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