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Frequently Asked Questions – Postal Regulatory Commission


The Commission

1. What is the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC)?

2. What happened to the Postal Rate Commission?

3. What authority does the new PRC have?

Commission Proceedings and Dockets

4. What is a proceeding?

5. What is a Docket?

6. What do the Docket letters and numbers mean?

7. Who can participate in a PRC proceeding? How?

Postage Price Setting

8. How are postage prices set?

9. What is an Exigent Rate Case?

10. Where can I find current postal price information?

11. What role can the public play when the Postal Service wants to raise postage prices?


The Commission

1. What is the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC)?

The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent agency created by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) in 2006, as successor to the former Postal Rate Commission, to provide strengthened oversight of the United State Postal Service. The Commission promotes high quality universal mail service for the American people by ensuring Postal Service transparency, accountability and compliance with the law.

The PRC is composed of five Commissioners appointed by the President with consent of the Senate, for a term of six years. No more than three Commissioners may be from one political party. Assisting the Commission is a staff of about 70 people with expertise in law, economics, finance, statistics and cost accounting.

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2. What happened to the Postal Rate Commission?

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) enacted on December 20, 2006, created a modern operating structure for the Nation’s mail Service. The United States Postal Service was given new flexibility to become more market-oriented and competitive and the former Postal Rate Commission became the new Postal Regulatory Commission with strengthened oversight authority to promote the transparency and accountability of the Postal Service and to ensure that it operates in compliance with the law.

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3. What authority does the new PRC have?

The PRC has broad regulatory oversight related to Postal Service:

  • Price changes
  • Service standards and service performance
  • Financial accounting and reporting
  • Proposed nationwide changes in service
  • Customer complaints
  • Overall compliance with the PAEA

The PRC also issues regular and special studies such as:

  • Annual Compliance Determination (Assessing Postal Service compliance with applicable laws during the prior fiscal year),
  • Annual report to the President and Congress (Reviewing significant PRC activity in the past year)
  • Universal Service and the monopoly (Special study and ongoing work to establish the nature and value of the Postal Service’s Monopoly and its Universal Service Obligation)
  • Postal Service retiree health benefit obligations (Special study requested by congress to assess the computation and value of the Postal Service’s long-term liability for employee and retiree health benefits)

The PRC also has new enforcement tools, including:

  • Subpoena power
  • Authority to direct the Postal Service to adjust rates and to take other remedial actions, and
  • Power to levy fines in cases of deliberate noncompliance by the Postal Service with applicable postal laws

The PRC also:

  • Hears Appeals regarding Post Office Closings.

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Commission Proceedings and Dockets

4. What is a proceeding?

A proceeding is a formal, public process conducted by the PRC to examine an issue and produce a decision or product. For example, when the Postal Service decides to raise postage prices, it submits a proposal to the PRC, which conducts a proceeding to ensure that the proposal meets the requirements set by law. Other proceedings might examine service complaints, proposed nationwide changes to service, proposals for new products and services, or suggestions for new rules and procedures. In any case, PRC proceedings are judicial in nature, with strict rules of procedure and practice. Proceedings are conducted to define the issues, clarify the facts and ensure due process for all parties so that fair and timely decisions are reached.

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5. What is a Docket?

A docket is the formal name for a public record that holds all documents and materials related to a PRC proceeding. Documents may include Commission orders, interventions, transcripts, testimony, evidence, comments and other information submitted on the record.

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6. What do the Docket letters and numbers mean?

When the PRC establishes a docket it assigns it a unique identification tag that indicates the specific proceeding, the nature of the issue being examined, and the fiscal year in which the proceeding began.

The nature of the proceeding is abbreviated by a letter code. For example, “R” stands for a Rate case, and "RM" is a Rulemaking case. The letter code is then followed by the current year and the number of the case for that year. For example the 2nd rate case for FY2009 would be Docket R2009-2. For example, the Docket for the 3rd Rulemaking case of FY2010 would be RM2010-3.

Here are the Docket abbreviations currently in use:

  • “A” – Appeal of a Post Office Closing
  • “ACR” – Annual Compliance Determination (End-of-year Report on Postal Service performance and compliance in meeting its statutory requirements)
  • “C” – Complaint (Complaints on major service or price issues, often with national or systemic implications)
  • “CP” – Competitive Products (Postal Service proposes a rate change for competitive products)
  • “IM” – International Mail (no longer used following passage of new Postal law in 2006)
  • “MC” – Mail Classification
  • “MT” – Market Test (Postal Service request to test market a new postal product)
  • “N” – Substantial change in the Nature of service proposed by the Postal Service requiring an Advisory Opinion by the Commission
  • “PI” – Public Inquiry (For example, a public inquiry was initiated to request public views on universal postal service and the postal monopoly that were instrumental to the development of a Commission report to the President and Congress on this issue)
  • “R” – Rates (Postal Service proposes to change rates for market dominant products)
  • “RM” – Rulemaking

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7. Who can participate in a PRC proceeding (Docket)? How?

Anyone may participate in a public proceeding before the Commission, subject to the PRC’s rules of practice. The easiest way for individual customers to participate is to follow the proceeding online at www.prc.gov and to submit comments through the Contact PRC button at the top of the Commission’s home page.

In view of the judicial nature of Commission proceedings and to ensure that individual and household customers are represented, an Officer of the Commission is designated to represent the interests of the general public in public proceedings that come before the Commission. For detailed information on more formal ways to participate in a proceeding, click here.

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Postage Price Setting

8. How are postage prices set?

Under the law, the Postal Service operates essentially two business lines, one for “market dominant” products and one for “competitive” products. Each line has its own regulations and pricing rules that are administered by the Commission.

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Market-Dominant Products

Market-dominant products comprise 99 percent of mail volume. Specifically, this includes First-Class Mail letters and sealed parcels; First-Class Mail cards; Periodicals; Standard Mail; Single-piece Parcel Post; Media Mail; Bound Printed Matter; Library Mail; Special Services; and Single-piece International Mail. The Postal Service dominates the market for these products because of its letter-mail monopoly and its position as the national mail service provider. Consequently, the law established an inflation- based price cap (Consumer Price Index for Urban consumers, CPI-U) on price increases for these product. For example, in 2008, the CPI-U cap was 2.9% and in 2009 it was 3.8%.


The Postal Service can change market-dominant prices following a 45-day public notice and review by the Commission. Under the Commission’s rules, the public is provided a 20-day comment period on the Postal Service’s proposal and the Commission will issue its decision within 14 days thereafter. Generally, public comments should address whether the Postal Service proposals meet the requirements of the law.


If the Commission finds that the Postal Service’s proposals do not meet the statutory requirements, the Postal Service must correct the deficiencies and resubmit the new prices. These prices, assuming they meet statutory requirements as determined by the Commission, cannot go into effect sooner than 45 days after they are submitted.


If the Commission finds that the Postal Service’s proposals do not meet the statutory requirements, the Postal Service must correct the deficiencies and resubmit the new prices. These prices, assuming they meet statutory requirements as determined by the Commission, cannot go into effect sooner than 45 days after they are submitted.


NOTE: In cases where the Postal Service implements prices that are lower than the price cap, the law provides that they may “bank” the difference and use it at a later date, subject to some limitations. Consequently, in a given year market dominant prices could be raised above the current cap up to the amount that had been previously banked. Also see ‘What is an Exigent Rate Case?” below.

Competitive Products

Competitive products include Priority Mail; Expedited Mail; Bulk Parcel Post and Bulk International Mail. The Postal Service is perceived to face competition for these products from private sector companies. Consequently, the Postal Service generally can price these products to the market as if they were a private sector company. However, competitive products are subject to a price floor to ensure against cross-subsidization by market-dominant products. Under rules established by the Commission, competitive product prices must cover all of the costs attributable to the product and additional cover 5.5 % of institutional costs (general overhead).

The Postal Service can raise Competitive prices no sooner than 30 days after it has presented its proposal to the Commission and provide public notice of its proposal. The Commission will complete its review within that time.

9. What is an Exigent Rate Case?

The new postal law recognized that the Postal Service might need to raise market-dominant prices above the CPI-U price cap due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances. In such circumstances, the Postal Service may file a proposal with the Commission for an “exigent” rate increase. Among other requirements, the Postal Service proposal must:

  • Describe the exigent circumstances and show why they necessitate the increase,
  • Show that the proposed rates are reasonable and equitable, and
  • Describe circumstances under which the increases could be rescinded or reduced.

Upon receiving an exigent rate proposal from the Postal Service, the Commission will establish a docket, provide for public comment and conduct a hearing on the record. Interested parties may suggest relevant questions to the Commission that might be posed during the hearing. The Commission will issue its decision within 90 days of the Postal Service filing.

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10. Where can I find current postal price information?

For current postal prices please click here. If you are inquiring about price proposals that currently are pending before the Commission, please refer to the appropriate docket, which can be found among the open dockets listed near the bottom of the Commission home page, www.prc.gov.

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11. What role can the public play when the Postal Service wants to raise postage prices?

Individuals may file their concerns and views in response to a Commission request for comments when a postage rate increase proposal is pending before the Commission. These comments will be made a part of the official record and can serve to highlight issues – such as unfair or unlawful increases - that can be addressed during the review. It should be noted, however, that the 2006 postal law sought to provide the Postal Service with increased pricing flexibility and to promote simpler, quicker and more efficient process for changing postage prices. So long as the postal service meets its statutory requirements, the Commission does not have authority to deny or amend the price proposals.

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