The goal of the U.S. Postal Service's Move Update program is to reduce the amount of undeliverable-as-addressed mail entering the postal system. Last year, according to The Prescott Report, 10 billion pieces of mail were undeliverable, at a cost of $1.6 billion to the USPS. Beyond the incentive of qualifying for work-sharing discounts, the agency is getting ready to add more motivation for marketers to mail to clean lists: a penalty on mailings that do not meet Move Update standards.
To help you follow the letter of the Move Update postal law, the following are some details about the program that belong in every marketer's knowledge base:
#1. Effective since Nov. 23, 2008, the most recent revision to the Move Update program requires marketers to scrub the mailing lists for their campaigns 95 days prior to the date of the drop. Marketers must use one of the hygiene processes approved by the USPS, including NCOALink, FASTforward and Address Change Service, among others. Move Update standards apply to all Standard mail as well as automation-rate and presort rate First Class mail.
#2. While the USPS already mandates compliance with Move Update standards, January 2010 is the new start time for the agency's use of its MERLIN reporting system to calculate the percentage of a mail drop that is not compliant and then assess the appropriate additional postage. Marketers are granted an error threshold of 30 percent; mailings for which more than 30 percent of the records are found not to have current addresses will be hit with a per-piece fee of 7 cents on the portion that is not compliant, says Charley Howard, vice president of postal affairs at Harte-Hanks. Clearly, this additional postage could be quite significant on large campaigns.
#3. According to the Mailing & Fulfillment Services Association, the USPS is considering some sort of deferral period—probably just a few days—to allow marketers to secure the funds to make the additional postage payments.
#4. In addition, the USPS has done away with the process of mail preparation companies—lettershops, printing firms and other service bureaus—submitting Form 6014. This form held the marketers conducting mail campaigns responsible for compliance with Move Update standards, rather than their service providers. As such, marketers and their partners in the postal supply chain now must take steps to identify how Move Update compliance and any penalties that arise from noncompliance will be handled.