Court Strikes Down 2019 First-Class Five Cent Price Hike; Slams “Rubber Stamp” PRC

A federal appeals court struck down the five cent increase in single-piece First-Class Mail that took effect January 2019, ruling in favor of Douglas Carlson who filed the suit as his own lawyer.

Carlson, a regulatory advocate, asserted that the Postal Regulatory Commission’s approval of the 10% increase from 50 cents to 55 cents was “arbitrary and capricious under the APA (Administrative Procedure Act) because the commission failed to consider the objectives and factors” outlined in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA).

The court agreed.

The ruling will have no immediate affect on current rates pending appeal by the Justice Department and Postal Regulatory Commission. But given the victory by one man who challenged the system, nothing is certain.

“We conclude that the Commission fell short of the APA’s requirement for reasoned decision making because it did not adequately analyze the stamp price hike’s compliance with all of the PAEA’s relevant statutory objectives and factors, particularly those raised in the public comments,” wrote Judge Neomi Rao for the three judge panel.

The Court slammed the PRC for not following the law.

“Congress directed the Commission to serve as more than just a rubber stamp of the Postal Service’s proposed rate increases,” the opinion states. “The PAEA establishes a robust rulemaking process for the Commission, subjecting rate-change proposals to the deliberative and participatory process of notice-and-comment rulemaking under the APA. By failing to consider relevant statutory objectives and factors and declining to respond to significant public comments, the Commission violated the APA when it approved the stamp price hike.”

“Although the five-cent stamp price hike may have gone unnoticed by many, the American Revolution was fomented in part by ordinary people who objected to taxation through stamps,” wrote Judge Rao.

“Carlson’s objections arise in less fraught times. We conclude that this stamp price hike violated the APA because the (Postal Regulatory) Commission failed to consider the relevant policies of the PAEA, particularly those raised in the public comments. We therefore grant Carlson’s petition for review, vacating the part of Order 4875 that includes the stamp price hike and the rate adjustments to the category of first-class mail.”

Judge Rao said the PRC failed to offer an “adequate explanation of the increase” and did not respond to public comment that challenged the price hike.

Click for Court Ruling in Carlson v Postal Regulatory Commission