An upcoming change to the USPS® method for verifying address quality will particularly impact high-volume business mailers, who could be hit with fees if their mail is not compliant.

The Postal Regulatory Commission has approved a new Census-based measurement process for the Move Update standard, slated to take effect March 1, 2018. That’s a change from how the process works today, in which the USPS measures compliance at the individual mailing level using a MERLIN machine on sampling of pieces within the mailing. Those machines will eventually be retired, and instead the USPS will rely on scans from mail processing equipment.

The Postal Service believes these changes will improve mail visibility and quality metrics. But, it will also mean business mailers who perform their own Move Updates will need to be even more careful if they want to avoid fees and continue tapping into presort mail discounts. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Move Update standard?

The ultimate goal of the standard is to ensure address quality.

Incorrect addresses require correction and re-sending or forwarding, creating more work for the postal service and businesses. More than 2 billion pieces of mail were either returned or forwarded to a new address in 2018, costing businesses up to $25 per piece of returned mail.

The Move Update standard seeks to reduce the volume of mail that needs to be returned or forwarded through a process by which a mailer’s address records are compared to the USPS’s most recent list of change-of-address (COA) orders. To qualify for USPS presort discounts and automation pricing for First-Class Mail® or USPS Marketing Mail, businesses must demonstrate that their list is accurate by sending a mailpiece to an updated address on their list, within 95 days of making the update. Mailers are able to track compliance using the Mailer Scorecard.

What’s new in 2018?

The switch from MERLIN to a Census-based verification approach will mean a few new things for mailers:

  • The postal service will collect data from mail process equipment to assess errors as it enters the USPS mailstream. This will give the USPS a more complete view of all pieces in mailings sent within a calendar month, rather than a sampling of mail processed by MERLIN.
  • Verification results will be viewable for both the mailer that submitted the electronic documentation for the mailing (the eDoc submitter) and the mail owner.
  • Starting in March, the threshold for the number of acceptable COA errors is 0.5 percent of all mailings. The USPS will bill monthly assessments to the eDoc submitter for every piece over that threshold.
  • The USPS will be reporting all Move Update statistics by mail owner and eDoc submitter to the Postal Inspection Service.
  • Additionally, the USPS has increased the Move Update assessment charge to $0.08 per piece (from $0.07).  If they fall below the new threshold, mailers could face a larger assessment.

What can mailers do to prepare?

Mailers that perform their own Move Update need to get familiar with the Mailer Scorecard, if they aren’t already. It’s important to monitor COA errors now and see if you’re outside the 0.5 percent threshold, so that you have time to make improvements before March 1. If you find that you are above the threshold, contact the USPS for assistance well before that date.

Mailers that work with a presort services provider but do their own Move Update should also start scoring their mail for COA errors.

These third-party mail service providers are assessed based on the entirety of the mail they drop per month at a mailing center. If, for example, one client is over the threshold by 200 pieces and another client is under by 200 pieces, the net result is no assessment. This could minimize your risk of a Move Update violation.

Additionally, mail service providers will only receive an assessment if the mailing center was actually above the threshold. Any charges to a client will be the proportion of the actual USPS assessment that the client’s mail contributed. While still possible, it’s rare to pay the full $0.08 per piece in these circumstances, since clients under threshold will offset clients over threshold.

Given the new tighter threshold and higher assessment fee, it may also be time to consider having your presort services provider perform Move Update as an added service. Most presort service providers will not charge Move Update assessments back to these clients.

You can read more about the USPS’s specific guidance around the Move Update Address Quality Census or the Mailer Scorecard on the USPS website.

Trust Pitney Bowes to help you navigate USPS postal regulations and Rate Changes.  Learn more about how we can help you comply with the new USPS Move Update Census Method with Address Data Quality software and Presort Services.