Imagine paying for a service, then later receiving a bill because the company says you didn’t pay enough. That’s the discomfiture online sellers may start experiencing due to a change at the US Postal Service.
On August 14th, the USPS began a program in which it verifies shippers have paid the correct amount for postage purchased online for packages through Click-N-Ship or PC Postage label providers such as EasyPost, eBay, Endicia, PayPal, Pitney Bowes, and Stamps.com. If it finds shippers didn’t pay the correct amount, the USPS will make a “payment adjustment” facilitated through the PC Postage platform the seller used.
It’s hard to argue with the motivation behind the new Automated Package Verification System (known as APV), which will also credit shippers if they overpaid for online postage. There have been some high-profile cases of mail fraud, such as the seller accused of defrauding the USPS of $400,000 by counterfeiting postage labels. The seller was accused of attempting to send parcels via Priority Mail while only paying First Class mail rates.
Some sellers applaud the new package verification program, but there is also concern about possible Postal Service errors and how to dispute a bill in cases where the shipper believes the agency has overbilled them.
When we wrote about the program last month, USPS spokesperson Roy Betts told EcommerceBytes: “If you believe you have received a notification from your PC Postage entity in error please follow the instructions on the notice to submit a dispute. USPS may review all scan data relating to the piece in question, including image analysis, and, if such an error has occurred, USPS will work through our PC Postage entity to return the amount in question.”
He also provided the following information:
“How long will it take USPS to review my dispute/how can I check the status of my dispute? Most responses can be expected in 2-5 business days, and at most 15 business days. The status of your dispute claim is available from your PC Postage entity and may be updated daily.
“When will I receive my refund? If your dispute is upheld you may be due a refund. All payments are processed by your PC Postage entity on behalf of USPS so please reach out to your PC Postage entity directly for questions regarding billing or your account.”
Shippers can also learn more about the postage due process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by contacting the Click-N-Ship or PC Postage provider directly.
What about eBay, where many sellers purchase their shipping labels? During a recent weekly chat session, eBay told sellers, “Overpayment on postage returned to eBay from USPS will be placed back on the PayPal account originally used to purchase the label.”
Execution is also of concern. It’s not clear how much education about the program the USPS has provided to mail clerks who had manually verified online postage in the past. In a recent newsletter, the agency advised employees:
“The system eliminates the need for packages paid via a Click-N-Ship or PC Postage label to have additional postage collected manually. Employees who identify or collect postage due no longer need to perform this activity on packages that have a Click-N-Ship or PC Postage label. Employees who have questions can refer to the stand-up talk on Blue and the Postage Verification section on usps.com.”
Before the new system took effect, if the Postal Service discovered a package didn’t have enough postage, it would either provide recipients (buyers) with “postage due” notices or return the package to the seller, thereby delaying delivery of orders for online merchants. Stamps.com’s Eric Nash told EcommerceBytes the new system is designed to eliminate such negative buyer experiences.
On Friday, we checked in with the Postal Service to see how the rollout was going. Spokesperson Roy Betts provided us with the following update:
“The U.S. Postal Service is committed to giving consumers and businesses an easy and seamless package shipping experience.
“To support this commitment, on Aug. 14, the Postal Service launched an automated system to replace a manual collection process to detect and collect postage overpayment or underpayment on packages with postage paid via Click-N-Ship or PC Postage labels.
“The Automated Package Verification (APV) system will help consumers and businesses shipping packages with postage paid via Click-N-Ship or PC Postage labels to accurately pay for shipping – with the intent that it will improve the shipping experiences for shippers and receivers. The APV system eliminates the need for packages paid via Click-N-Ship or PC Postage labels to have additional postage collected manually through the postage due process. Mail processing equipment has been equipped to automatically weigh and rate packages to detect postage due or overpayment.
“All other postage due letters, flats and packages paid for with meter or postage stamps, and letters and flats paid via Click-N-Ship or PC Postage labels are handled under existing processes for the collection of additional postage. Existing package processing practices apply for packages shipped with stamps and meter strips.”
As the new system takes effect, let us know about your experiences and leave a comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.