|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2664 - November 01, 2011 - ISSN 1539-5065 2 of 3|
Ecommerce giant eBay is calling on its network of sellers to petition members of Congress to oppose any measures to reform the U.S. Postal Service that would entail an increase in shipping rates for small sellers.
The company is advocating financial relief for the troubled Postal Service, which has been hammered by declining mail volumes, a weakened economy and federally mandated employee-benefit obligations, but that effort to right its balance sheet should not come with rate increases that would hit low-volume sellers, eBay is arguing.
"eBay supports financial relief for the USPS and forward-thinking policies to restructure the postal service and keep shipping rates affordable," the company said in a message to sellers. "It is imperative that eBay small businesses have access to low-cost, reliable shipping alternatives."
Various proposals to reform the Postal Service's cost and operating structure have emerged in Congress, including the authorization of additional rate increases, and President Obama addressed the issue in a budget proposal released last month, endorsing the reduction in mail delivery to a five-day weekly schedule, among other things.
The Postal Service has been advocating for that move in its own restructuring plan, which also involves major reductions in its workforce, closing or privatizing thousands of facilities and an appeal to Congress to eliminate the obligation to prefund employees' retirement benefits and allow it to tap into overpayments made to the Civil Service Retirement Fund and the Federal Employees Retirement Fund.
eBay is ramping up its political action campaign in anticipation that Congress could act on postal reform in the coming weeks. In congressional testimony earlier this year, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned of a "looming liquidity crisis" that has pushed the Postal Service to the brink of default.
In the third quarter of the current fiscal year, ending June 30, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $3.1 billion. For the first three quarters of the fiscal year, the organization lost $5.7 billion, and is projecting losses for the full year as high as $10 billion. The Postal Service is scheduled to report its financial results for the full fiscal year Nov. 15.
In its petition, presented as a prepared letter to senators and representatives to which sellers can add their names, eBay urges lawmakers to move quickly on Postal Service reform legislation, arguing that the service is vital to the growing ecommerce sector.
"Small businesses depend on the affordable and reliable services provided by the USPS to get their products to customers," the petition reads. "Together, e-commerce retailers constitute a USPS "super user," and have helped offset some of the decline in traditional mail by generating increasing numbers of products for delivery."
eBay declined to elaborate on the details of its advocacy on the issue, but spokeswoman Johnna Hoff provided this statement: "eBay maintains a strong relationship with the USPS and has successfully worked to help make small businesses competitive in shipping by negotiating discounts on behalf of millions of eBay sellers globally," Hoff said. "eBay supports forward-thinking policies to restructure the Postal Service and keep shipping rates affordable. It is imperative that eBay small businesses have access to low-cost, reliable shipping alternatives, and we have drafted a petition that allows eBay sellers to support initiatives that enable USPS to continue to offer competitive and affordable shipping options."
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About the author:
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.
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