Mailing List Accuracy Becomes More Stringent

February 23, 2018 Off By Melissa Team

Mailers face additional penalties in not meeting new Post Service regulations requiring valid, deliverable addresses

The newest wrinkle from the U.S. Postal Service impacts businesses with substantial mass mailing efforts. New Mail Update regulations are intended to limit an unacceptable percentage of wrong addresses, which are costly for everyone concerned. The key word here is “unacceptable.” Be warned: The threshold at which the Postal Service measures adequate mailing-list accuracy and the way it does it are changing dramatically.

Bad addresses already are costing businesses millions. When a letter or bill, package or flat, gets bounced as undelivered as addressed (UAA), the business and its mail house are on the hook not  only for penalties, but also for poor customer communications and marketing effectiveness, lagging account receivables, fewer sales, and more unhappy customers. 

As for the Postal Service, it doesn’t want to eat the cost of hauling the bad stuff back to the mail facility, sorting it again, mailing it back to the mailer, and so on. It’s no wonder the Postal Service has been levying compensatory costs on mailers with bad databases.

Now, as of March 1, 2018, that cost promises to become increasingly onerous–or shall we say increasingly motivating. The old rules mandated that addresses be screened via a machine with the ungainly name of Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup Instrument. It’s acronym, MERLIN, implies a certain magical ability to detect bad addresses, but in reality all these machines have been doing was randomly checking a portion of a submitted mailing list. If a generous 30 percent or more of that sample was faulty, the mailer was hit with a fee of 7 cents per piece for the percent of bad addresses above that threshold.

Now, the Postal Service will be leveraging its Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) technology to check every single address a mailer submits in bulk for accuracy, not just a random sample.

Further, the allowable threshold of 30 percent of bad addresses is history. Now, if only 0.5 percent of addresses are faulty, failing to mirror Postal Services change of address (COA) records beyond a certain cutoff point, the mailer is hit with an 8 cent fee on each bad address beyond this vastly more stringent threshold.

The potential for thousands of dollars in penalties due to out-of-date mailing lists is now very real.

What are direct mailers to do to achieve 99.5 percent address list accuracy?

First, they should get current with all change-of-address requests … if they can. Each year some 40 million Americans move, and only a portion bother to submit COAs, and those that are filed only gradually find their way into the Postal Service’s system.

Further, mailers should assure that all addresses match official Postal Service formats of street address, apartment number, accurate city name, and the like. It’s amazing how often an addressee himself doesn’t know what town he lives in (“Is it Hollywood or Los Angeles?”), and these sorts of things can easily gum up a mailing list.

Yes, there are some Postal Service aids, but they’re not particularly user friendly. One service allows mailers to electronically receive change-of-address information after a mailing–a little late to avoid penalties, wouldn’t you say?–while another provides a database of 160 million “permanent” change-of-address records.

A “permanent” database? I saw you smile!

Fortunately there are easier, more accurate, and less bothersome solutions.  

  • Melissa’s SmartMover cloud service provides fast, easy change-of-address processing for U.S. and international addresses that are accurate in real time. With SmartMover, direct mailers can be assured of staying on the right side of the Postal Service’s new Move Update and COA regulations, while increasing customer lifetime value and mailing ROI.
  • Melissa’s Address Verification Service verifies addresses in the U.S. and worldwide, also in real-time. We’re talking complete, standardized, and accurate USPS addresses while correcting errors and adding in missing components like postal codes.
  • Melissa’s Personator cleans, verifies, standardizes, and completes names and addresses (as well as phone numbers and emails if you need those), matching names to addresses to
    authenticate the identity of a customer.

Staying on the right side of the U.S. Postal Service’s new Move Update regulations is good
business for direct mailers and mail houses. It avoids costly penalties while assuring optimal mailing accuracy and customer satisfaction.

And you’ll want to do it with a partner who’s the leader in data accuracy: Melissa.