Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
The Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal statute, 5 U.S.C. 552a, that gives individuals the right to access personal information the government maintains in certain systems of records. As under the FOIA, each agency handles its own requests for records under the Privacy Act.
Individuals, wishing to know whether the Commission's system of records contains a personal record about them, or who seek access to a Commission record about themselves or who seek to amend a record about themselves, may file a written request to the following address:
Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary
Postal Regulatory Commission
901 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20268-0001
The request should state "Privacy Act Request." The requester may either request an appointment to inspect the records at the Commission's offices between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. during any business day or request the information via regular mail. Requests must include the birthdate of the individual, as well as dates of employment. Both request options must include suitable proof of identity, such as a driver's license, employee identification card or Medicare card.
Commission Proceedings and Dockets
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.
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.
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
- "T" – Annual Review of Tax calculation
Anyone may participate in a public proceeding before the Commission, subject to the PRC’s rules of practice.
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.
Postage Price Setting
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.
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.
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.