Federal appeals court upholds USPS postal pricing
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
A federal appeals court has rejected the efforts of commercial mailers to knock down a new postal pricing plan that they complained will lead to increased stamp prices.
The Nov. 12 ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upholds a plan created by the Postal Regulatory Commission that allows the U.S. Postal Service to raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.
The decision was expected after a Sept. 13 hearing before the judges.
In the Sept. 13 hearing, two of the three judges voiced strong questions about the mailers’ arguments that were aimed at overturning stamp price increases that became effective Aug. 29.
One increase boosted the price of a first-class stamp to 58¢ from 55¢.
The appeals court had previously rejected the mailers’ efforts to block the Postal Service from imposing the higher rates.
The conflicting claims by mailers and the Postal Service were laid out in the court’s 25-page opinion.
As the appeals court put it, the mailers saw the Postal Regulatory Commission’s new pricing plan as “arbitrary and capricious.”
Postal Service lawyers argued the new plan was “irrational because it does not confer enough rate authority.”
The three judges found that the new plan was carefully adopted by the commission and met all the requirements of federal law.
In doing so, the panel rejected arguments by both the mailers and the Postal Service.
As for allowing rate increases above the rate of inflation, the judges found that the new system “retains the price cap generally, but allows above-inflation rate increases to target specific costs.”
“The Postal Service may exceed the price cap if the commission finds, after notice and comment, that a rate change is warranted due to ‘extraordinary or exceptional circumstances’ if ‘reasonable and equitable and necessary’ to maintain postal services,” the court held.
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