April 13, 2000

The U.S. Postal Service's Proposed Delivery of Mail to a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency

  • Susan Dudley

    Director, George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
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Delivery of Mail to a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency

Stated Purpose:

To "increase the safety and security of the mail"

Summary of RSP Comment:

On March 25, 1999, the Postal Service published a final rule on Delivery of Mail to Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies. According to that notice, the "sole postal purpose of the rule" was to "increase the safety and security of the mail." One of the requirements of the rule was that users of CMRAs must include the acronym, "PMB" (private mailbox), in their mailing address to identify the "true identity of the mailing address of the mailbox holder." The PMB designation was reputed to "ensure that the public would be aware that the address is not a physical location and thereby discourage fraudulent or deceptive practices that might adversely affect senior citizens and other consumers, businesses, and even federal, state, and local governments."

The Postal Service published this final rule despite receiving over 8,000 public comments on its proposal, only 10 of which supported the requirements.

In response to concerns raised on the final rule by the Small Business Administration, small businesses, self-employed and home office operators, and the CMRA owners, the Postal Service proposed on March 13, 2000 to revise the requirement for a PMB designation in the mailing label. The new proposal extends the deadline for compliance with the rule, and would allow CMRA users to use an alternative designation element of "#" rather than "PMB." The "#" would have to appear on a separate (fourth) line of the address label, and could not be used with "suite," "floor" or other term that suggested a physical presence at the mailing address. Incorrectly addressed mail (i.e., with the # in a three-line rather than four-line format) would be returned to the sender with the message: "Undeliverable as Addressed, Missing PMB or # Sign."

The Postal Service invites public comment on this alternative, though the public notice emphasizes that it is exempt from the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.