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USPS Has New Rules for Testing Experimental Products

Postal Services all over the world are coping with declines in letter mail thanks in great part to the Internet and email, and many have looked for new sources of revenue. The U.S. Postal Service is no exception and has run nine market tests of “experimental products,” including the Metro Post same-day delivery service.

Because the USPS is regulated, it must run such tests past the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). On Thursday, the PRC issued final regulations that establish new procedures concerning such requests, saying it had considered lessons learned from past market tests in creating the new rules.

“The regulations balance the Commission’s oversight authority over market tests with the Postal Service’s need for flexibility to test new product ideas,” the commission wrote in its announcement. They also include safeguards to avoid disruptions to the commercial marketplace.

The rules also discuss the elements the Postal Service must include in a market test proposal, the PRC’s review process, revenue and time limitations, data to be collected from a market test, and the mechanisms by which the Postal Service can seek to change market tests or transition experimental products to permanent products.

The USPS ran a test of same-day delivery in San Francisco, but the Office of Inspector General for the USPS found the Postal Service did not properly implement the pilot test (see, USPS Ends Same-Day Delivery Pilot in San Francisco).

As part of the new rules, the PRC outlines detailed data collection and reporting requirements – including a data-collection plan that must include revenue and costs.

The PRC said that to date, it had approved nine requests filed by the Postal Service to conduct market tests and granted extensions of four market tests; authorized two exemptions from the revenue limitation; and granted three requests to make experimental products permanent.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.