Preparing For Postage Assessments

By now you are likely well aware that starting in November 2016 the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) plans to implement assessments (based on October 2016 data) for non-compliance with the requirements for a number of USPS initiatives such as Intelligent Mail® Full-Service, eInduction, Seamless Acceptance and more. November is not all that far away, so it is a good idea for you to become familiar with what these assessments involve, how they will work, and what you can do to try to minimize any potential assessments.

What mailings are evaluated?

There are four areas of USPS validation that will be impacted by the implementation of these postage assessments:
Intelligent Mail Full-Service

– Move Update
– eInduction
– Seamless Acceptance

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MIDs, CRIDs and NPAs

Doesn’t it seem like we need a glossary to keep track of all the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) abbreviations and acronyms? Just when you think you are up to speed on all the acronyms, new ones appear. This week’s topic is not about any new acronyms, but it is about some really, really critical ones – especially with the postage assessments being implemented coming up in October.

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Identifying Mail Owners in eDoc

One of the more challenging aspects of submitting mailing jobs electronically to PostalOne! is properly identifying the various entities involved in the mailing job – specifically, the Mail Owner, the Mail Preparer, and the eDoc Submitter.

For the most part, these entities may be identified using their Mailing Identification number (MID) or their Customer Registration Identification number (CRID). However, in the case of the Mail Owner identification, there are a number of places in the eDoc where this needs to be identified, and the USPS has recently modified the types of data that is used to validate this information. For Mail Service Providers (MSP’s), getting all of this straight can be a bit intimidating and it can be a real chore to collect or verify all of these critical pieces of information for their clients too.

Uses of Mail Owner information
The USPS uses the Mail Owner data in eDoc for three main purposes:
1. To identify the Mail Owner for Full-Service compliance (this is the “For” part of the “By/For” relationship identification).
2. To validate nonprofit price eligibility when nonprofit prices are claimed.
3. To display the Mail Owners on postage statements.

Means of Identification
By/For Relationship: Currently, the Mail Owner MID, CRID or Mail Owner permit data may be used to identify the Mail Owner for this purpose. The Mail Owner is required to be identified when the owner represents 5,000 or more pieces in a mailing.

Nonprofit Price validation: For each nonprofit mailing, all mail owners must be identified and must have a valid Nonprofit Authorization (NPA) number, regardless of the number of pieces per owner in the mailing. For mailings consisting of multiple mail owners, all of the mail owners must be identified in the eDoc; it is no longer permitted to provide the mail owner information using a hard copy spreadsheet presented to the mail clerk at the time of mailing. Another recent change involves the data used to validate nonprofit eligibility. Previously, the only data used for this validation was Permit data; either that of the Mail Owner if using their own postal permit to pay the postage, or what is called a “Ghost Permit” (Local Permit) if the Mail Owner used a MSP’s postage permit for payment. In either case, those permits are required to be linked to a valid NPA number in PostalOne! These ghost permits are established by request at the post office where the mailing is verified and paid for. These are non-paying postal permits, used for identification purposes only. Effective with the November 30, 2014 PostalOne! release, the USPS added the options of the Mail Owner MID or the Mail Owner CRID in addition to the Permit data for this nonprofit validation. As with the permit data, the Mail Owner MID and CRID data must be linked to a valid NPA Number in PostalOne! In cases where some of these validation fields are blank in the Mail.dat files, or when there is data populated in multiple validation fields in the Mail.dat files, the chart below shows the order of precedence that PostalOne! uses to determine which data is used for the validation. What this means is that it is very critical to pay attention to this order of precedence to make sure that your Mail.dat files are populated with the correct data in the correct fields, and that you do not have any conflicting or invalid data in these fields.

Display Owner on Postage Statements: On the first page of postage statements, there are three blocks for Mailer information. The first block is the Permit Holder, and the data displayed in this block is that of the owner of the permit used to pay for the mailing, identified using that permit number. The second block is the Mailing Agent or Mail Preparer. This is identified by the CRID or MID of the Mail Preparer in the Mailer Postage Accounting (MPA) file of the Mail.dat file. The third block is the name and address of the organization for which the mailing is prepared, i.e. Mail Owner. The USPS also changed the data used to populate this section effective with the November 30, 2014 PostalOne! release. This block is now populated using one of the following: the Mail Owner MID, Mail Owner CRID, or the data in the Local Permit field. If the Mail Owner uses their own permit to pay the postage, this data should be identical to the data in the first block. However, if the Mail Owner uses the postal permit of the Mail Preparer, a valid Mail Owner MID, CRID or Ghost Permit is needed to correctly display the Mail Owner in this block. That ghost permit number should be populated in the Local Permit field of the Mailer Postage Account file (MPA) in the Mail.dat file. Ghost permits should be identified as “V” for Virtual in the Permit Type field. The charts below show the order of precedence that PostalOne! uses to determine which validation field to populate these blocks on the postage statement. Again, it is very critical to understand the order of precedence so that you are populating your Mail.dat files with the correct, non-conflicting data.

Mail Service Provider Challenges
If you are a Mail Service Provider, you may need to obtain not only the CRID’s and MID’s of your clients, but also the Local Permit Numbers, which may actually be a ghost permit number if the mail owner is not paying postage through their own permit account.

This can become a bit of a challenge for mail preparers, who may have hundreds of clients using hundreds of postal permits to pay for their postage. Associating each of the clients and permits with the appropriate MID’s can be a daunting task to say the least.

Mail Service Providers often ask, which piece of information should I get from my clients, their MID or their CRID? Currently, either piece of data may be used in eDoc, but that may change in the future. For that reason, we encourage Mail Service Providers to obtain both pieces of data for all their clients so that they are prepared should the USPS change the identification requirements in the future.

So, how do you try to make sense of all of this? The best resources are the Business Customer Gateway and PostalOne! A Mail Service Provider (MSP) may also verify or gather the MID and CRID data for their clients using the Business Customer Gateway. There is a new Bulk Search utility available to MSP’s on the BCG for this purpose. MSP’s may use this utility to upload text files containing client Permit, MID, CRID, or NPA data to PostalOne!, which then returns an Excel file with the validated or corrected data. Up to 250 records per file may be uploaded, so this is a great way for MSP’s to validate or request the various client identification data for numerous clients at one time. Even if you think your client data is up to date, we strongly encourage MSP’s to take advantage of this free utility to validate your data. The USPS RIBBS web site also has some helpful information to clarify MIDs and CRIDs, as well as an excellent Guide to Mail Owners in eDoc.

Getting Help From the Experts
Window Book’s DAT-MAIL™ software allows you to easily manage MID and CRID information as well as see all the By/For relationships in the Mail.dat files using the Navigator View. This also allows you to quickly edit this information if necessary. Mail Service Providers can maintain the MID, CRID and Local Permit data in master client and permit files within DAT-MAIL.

DAT-MAIL even has great new BCG Gateway Export and Import features, which allow MSP’s to take advantage of the new BCG’s Bulk Search option with just a few mouse clicks. And, if you are a Bell and Howell BCC Mail Manager user, there is an interface available that allows you to import your client data from BCC Mail Manager into DAT-MAIL.

Window Book offers a FREE educational webinar on the topic of Identifying Mail Owners in PostalOne!, as well as many products and services to help you easily manage electronic documentation submissions. Call us at 1-800-524-0380 for more details or to sign up for your FREE Mailing Optimization Analysis!

Obtaining or Validating By/For Identifiers

With the November 30, 2014 release of PostalOne!®, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) added a new “Bulk Search” capability on the Business Customer Gateway (BCG). This new bulk search option is a great way for Mail Service Providers (MSP’s) to request By/For identifiers from the USPS for their clients. The ability to do individual look-ups for Mailer Identification numbers (MID’s) and Customer Registration numbers (CRID’s) has existed on the BCG for some time, but this new utility allows MSP’s to submit these requests in bulk quantities using text files. MSP’s can request additional information from the USPS, such as related postal permit numbers, Nonprofit Authorization numbers (NPA’s) and the company name and address information as it appears in the PostalOne! database. Be advised, your PostalOne! account must be designated as a Mail Service Provider in order to access this new utility.

File format requirements
The files that MSP’s upload to the BCG must be in pipe delimited ASCII text format. The files may contain the existing identifier information that MSP’s have in their databases for their clients. MSP’s then upload these files with the existing identifier data to the USPS, which then validates whether that existing data is correct, provides the correct data if it isn’t, or provides a message indicating that the data could not be found. The resulting data from the USPS is provided in the form of an Excel format file, which may be downloaded from the BCG. MSP’s must submit each type of identifier data in its own file; MID’s, CRID’s, Permits, and NPA’s must be uploaded using separate files. MSP’s may request to receive back from the USPS the MID, the CRID, the permits, or the NPA’s associated with the identifiers uploaded, or they can request that all available information be returned by the USPS. File size for the uploads is limited to 250 records; if MSP’s have more client records than this, multiple files may be uploaded.

This is a great time-saver for Mail Service Providers who may be struggling with By/For errors on their Mailer Scorecards. Obtaining or validating these identifiers using file uploads and downloads for their entire client database is much faster and more efficient than trying to do individual look-ups. The validation process is very quick, and return files for downloading may be ready in just a few minutes, or up to an hour in cases where there are larger file sizes or the site is experiencing heavy traffic. The validated or corrected data can be used to update client databases and other applications that are used to populate these identifiers in the electronic documentation (eDoc) submitted to PostalOne! Using the same data that is in the PostalOne! database means that the chances of validation errors or Mailer Scorecard errors for these elements is greatly reduced!

Managing the data

The returned files from the USPS should be analyzed very carefully before making any updates to your client databases or other applications. Keep in mind that while the USPS has been very diligent in cleaning up and maintaining their database, there is still the possibility that the data returned in the files is not completely accurate. For example, there are reported instances of multiple CRID’s being issued to the same company at the same location, so it is important in these cases to validate which CRID is actually correct. Likewise, companies are permitted to have multiple MID’s, so it is also important to validate which MID is the correct one for the MSP to be using. Similarly, old legacy NPA’s may have been replaced with new, national NPA’s, so this information may also need to be validated. As with any database maintenance, it is important to review and analyze any new data to look for discrepancies and get validation for any changes that may look suspect.

Window Book makes taking advantage of this new utility easy for our clients by providing an automated method to generate these upload files from your client files in the DAT-MAIL software. Users may select which type of identifier data you wish to upload, and DAT-MAIL will automatically generate the file in the proper format for uploading to the BCG. DAT-MAIL will even automatically create separate files if you have more than 250 records in your client list, and will also remove any duplicates or any house accounts. This is a free utility available in DAT-MAIL version or higher. We will be adding an additional import utility in future DAT-MAIL versions, to allow users to automatically import the downloaded, updated files from the BCG into their client files in the DAT-MAIL software, so stay tuned!