PRC Denies Rate Implementation Delay, Grants CCM Late Notice of Intervention

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on Friday denied a request from the Coalition of Catalog Mailers (CCM) to delay implementation of the new rates for Standard Mail flats as new testimony was received. But the PRC granted the late notice of intervention filed by the CCM, dismissing CCM’s motion to reopen and supplement the record.

The new postal rates are set to take effect May 14, and price hikes for Standard Mail flats – the category affecting most catalogers – could reach as high as 40%. On April 12, the CCM filed a motion to delay the new flat rates, claiming new testimony on the difficulties catalog mailers will have adjusting quickly to the new rates could persuade the commission to give mailers more time to prepare for the change.

The CCM, an ever-growing group currently comprising about 50 catalogers, was given standing to file comments on the evidence already taken in the case and to reply to PRC comments on that evidence. According to the PRC’s latest ruling, May 4 will be the deadline to file initial comments on the closed record with reply comments due by May 11.

In its ruling, PRC Chairman Dan G. Blair said: “Although the commission ruled to keep the record closed, we encourage parties and interveners, such as CCM, to present briefs with arguments based on the current evidence in the record.” He added that CCM’s request to reopen the record “would likely prolong the process significantly and unfairly require parties that had participated in the case to expend additional resources.” Reopening the record, Blair added, “will most likely take this case well into late summer or early fall which would run contrary to the stated goal of CCM — to obtain ‘transitional rate relief’ — since the rates in question are scheduled to go into effect on May 14, 2007.”

Joy Leong, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer representing CCM, tells Multichannel Merchant that she is pleased overall with the PRC’s decision. “It was mixed, but I think favorable in that the commission granted the motion to intervene,” she says. “They were sympathetic to our concern. We highlighted the needs of the cataloger, and now we’ll have an opportunity to submit detailed comments.”

As for reopening the record, Leong knew “we were facing an uphill battle.” Leong believes that the additional comment period likely won’t affect the May 14 implementation date. “At this point there’s been nothing to change that,” she says. “We had two points. The huge rate increase was totally unexpected and there needed to be more of a transition period to adjust to it.” The CCM filed for late intervention on April 3.

Leong says the CCM only formed in the past few months after details of the rate case, and its significant effect on catalogers, were released. She remains optimistic now that CCM has forged a relationship with the U.S. Postal Service. “We’re in a good position going forward,” she says. “It alerts the Postal Service that there is a group of catalogers out there. The key is to have a relationship and work with them. They are and have been very receptive.”

To contact the PRC regarding the impact of the rate increases on your business, fax your letters to: The Honorable Dan G. Blair Chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission 202-789-6886 The PRC’s mailing address is: 901 New York Ave. NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20268-0001

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