UPU’s Integrated Product Plan Impacts International Mailers

From the May 2017 edition of MAIL: The Journal of Communication Distribution:

By Merry Law
WorldVu LLC

The Universal Postal Union (UPU), is the primary forum for cooperation among national postal designated operators. Among other activities, it sets the rules for international mail exchanges with rules and regulations set out for Letter Mail and Parcel Post. The 192 member countries meet in a quadrennial Congress, most recently in Istanbul in October 2016, to set policy and direction for the UPU.

Related: USPS International Mailers Face Radical Changes In 2018 (Plus More Rates Hikes)

At the Istanbul Congress, a proposal for an Integrated Product Plan was passed. This document will form the basis of changes to the regulations for international letter mail, beginning in January 2018. The changes will apply to mail to and from the United States, but any UPU actions requiring changes to USPS mailing requirements are reviewed and implemented according to US laws and procedures. Domestic mail is not affected by UPU regulations.

But the changes are substantial and any mailer sending items internationally needs to be aware of what’s coming.

The goals of the IPP should provide more consistency in postal products and treatment among all countries.

The IPP will be enacted in two phases if the current plan is followed, with the first in January 2018, and the second in January 2020, following an extraordinary UPU meeting of all countries later in 2018.

Those goals are to:
* eliminate the product and weight silos in the current UPU service requirements,
* establish postal service categories based on the content of postal items (documents or goods),
* provide consistency across a 0 – 30 kg weight range,
* be compliant with security and customs requirements for electronic advanced data (EAD) and
* align remuneration and tariffs with the level of service provided.

Click for PDF of original MAIL article

Beginning in January 2018, postal items will be differentiated as “documents” or “goods”. Since postal items will be differentiated by content, a definition for both documents and goods has been introduced into the UPU Acts.

The broad definitions in the Acts, below, are not precise. There is no current plan to develop more detailed definitions by the UPU. Whether the definitions that each country will develop will differ from each other or from the definitions of goods and documents used for customs is not known at this time.

* Definition of “documents” in the UPU Acts: “a letter-post, parcel-post or EMS item consisting of any piece of written, drawn, printed or digital information, excluding objects of merchandise, whose physical specifications lie within the limits specified in the Regulations”

* Definition of “goods” in the Acts: “a letter-post, parcel-post or EMS item consisting of any tangible and movable object other than money, including objects of merchandise, which does not fall under the definition of “documents” as provided in paragraph 1.4 above and whose physical specifications lie within the limits specified in the Regulations”

The definition for the letter format (“E”) will be amended to small packets containing goods up to a weight of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) will be classified letter-post items. The definition of small letters (“P”) and large letters (“G”) will be amended in the Letter Post Regulation and their content will be restricted to documents only up to a total weight of 500 grams (1.1 pounds). As of January 2018, flats sent to other countries cannot contain goods.

A “menu approach” will be used for service level, price and value-added services. The value-added services will apply to both document and goods categories.

The menu includes payment on delivery, tracking, signature on delivery, consignment service, delivery options, insurance, express delivery service, delivery to the addressee in person (for trackable items), registration, merchandise return service, international business reply service, and free of charges and fees delivery service. (There are details still to be decided.)

Future customs and security requirements will make the provision of electronic advance data (EAD) mandatory on all postal items containing goods. This will require an amendment of the Letter Post Regulation and make the application of the UPU’s S10 barcode identifier to small packets obligatory. While the USPS anticipated regulations will take priority for US mailers, more information on this barcode is available on the UPU website. It is scheduled to become effective January 1, 2018.

Every country will make any necessary changes to their postal rules or regulations to meet the requirements of the UPU’s IPP for international mail.
Watch for announcements of changes from the USPS to the International Mail Manual (IMM).

(Merry Law is a regular columnist for MAIL Magazine and is President of WorldVu, publisher of the authoritative Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats. She can be reached at


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