USPS International Mailers Face Radical Changes In 2018 (Plus More Rate Hikes)

Pictured above, a UN Global Pulse animation uses UPU big data to visualize international postal flows during 2014. New international regulations will separate documents from goods and restrict use of International First-Class Mail, IPA, and ISAL. Photo courtesy UPU

CLARIFICATION 6/9/17:  Please be advised that goods and merchandise will still be mailable in IPA and ISAL packets. This story was updated to reflect this clarification.

WASHINGTON, DC — The USPS is restricting use of International First-Class Mail, IPA, and ISAL to documents only in its efforts to conform postal regulations with newly passed Universal Postal Union (UPU) requirements it helped write, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

The USPS has clarified that goods and merchandise will still be mailable in IPA and ISAL packets, though this is not stated in the notice.

It filed notice of the changes that take effect January 1, 2018. Mailers have until July 17 to comment.

The impact will be huge, especially on publishers whose products could be considered “goods” and not documents and thus cost more to mail. Anything purchased — including magazines and newspapers — is considered goods. Right now this is true for customs only and not postal class. But starting in January, these will apply for postal classes as well.

It may also hit mail consolidators, who count on ISAL and IPA to move all kinds of matter and not just documents. According to the USPS, goods and merchandise will still be mailable in IPA and ISAL packets. A packet can be a box or a padded envelope.

Click for “UPU’s Integrated Product Plan and U.S. International Mailers”

Worse yet: ever rising postage rates. International mailers are being hit with three rate hikes in one year. Rates went up in January 2017 and are scheduled to go up again August 16 with the USPS adjustments to the current discount structure in international contracts. Rate adjustments in 2018 will also be likely as documents and goods are segregated into separate classes.

“After lengthy deliberations, UPU member countries voted to identify and separate items by content as documents versus goods, for purposes of adopting a universal, world-wide standard,” the USPS states in its Federal Register notice. (Click for notice)

“This is an advance notice of the Postal Service’s intent to modify some of its International Mailing rules to conform with the new Universal Postal Union (UPU) requirements for certain Letter Post mail, effective January 1, 2018,” the USPS states.

“In order for the Postal Service to meet this new standard, the contents of First-Class Mail International postcard, letter, and large envelope (flat) mail; International Priority Airmail (IPA) postcard, letter, and large envelope (flat) mail; and International Surface Air Lift (ISAL) postcard, letter, and large envelope (flat) mail will be limited to documents,” the USPS states.

“Effective January 1, 2018, mailers who wish to mail any type of goods, regardless of shape, must use First Class Package International Service or another available service. Technical details and proposed IMM changes will be published at a later date and before implementation,” the USPS states.

At the heart of the issue is the new UPU Integrated Product Plan (IPP) which was passed at the Istanbul Congress last year. IPP attempts to deal with the rise of e-commerce and the growing cross-border shipments of goods often in mail classes originally designed for letters.

The integrated plan separates goods and documents to better account for what is actually being delivered by receiving countries, with a uniform weight system that ends mail class disparities. It is also hoped IPP also helps enforce security and custom laws, while simplifying international regulations.


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