The rising cost of shipping is on sellers' minds as new 2016 postal rates took effect on Sunday. Some sellers fumed over the fact that the US Postal Service provides special rates to China Post and other Asian postal services that make it cheaper for Chinese sellers to reach US buyers for lightweight packages than for domestic sellers.
It's an issue we've been writing about for a long time, and we've been digging into it again this week as we also keep up with Sunday's rate changes.
"How much does it cost to send an 12 oz. e-Packet from Beijing to Los Angeles," a seller asked. "I'll bet it cost less then the same package going across the street to my neighbor. This is where I have a problem!"
Another reader pleaded with us to publish the ePacket rates in a chart side by side with the rates they pay to compare them in black and white.
In October, the USPS told us, "The countries that have ePacket agreements with USPS are China, Hong Kong and Korea Post. We are unable to disclose rate information as it is commercially sensitive information of the USPS and foreign postal operators."
We asked the USPS again this week for the newly negotiated (October 1, 2015) ePacket rates with China Post, and received the following link to rates found on Chinese-language China EMS website
As it happens, Internet Retailer
published a chart this week that shows a Chinese merchant can ship a 1.8 ounce package for $5 to the US with basic tracking through ePacket with a delivery time of 7 - 10 days. That compares to a basic China Post Airmail rate of $2 with no tracking and an express 2-5 day delivery with advance tracking from FedEx, DHL, or UPS for $40.
In June, when Amazon complained about ePacket rates to a Congressional subcommittee, we exposed the culprit: terminal dues, which are governed by the Universal Postal Union that sets "last mile delivery" rates between international postal services.
As Kenneth Corbin wrote in that article
from June, "The Postal Service has said that it is trying to press for a better ePacket deal with China, but that its leverage is poor, given that China can always scrap the bilateral agreement and allow rates to revert to the more favorable UPU terminal dues."
He followed up with another article in December
citing a report by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG), which also took issue with the ePacket product.
So what can be done about terminal dues set by the UPU, which is set to meet in Istanbul this fall? Will anything be done soon to change a system that the OIG says puts small U.S. sellers at a competitive disadvantage?
Based on our initial research, the answer to the latter question is probably not. Expect to see more coverage on this issue as we continue reach out to experts and gather more information.