Please see the update to this article, Legal Trick Means No Postage Increase -- For Now.
Barely two months after deciding to skip the usual January price increases, the U.S. Postal Service appears close to announcing that prices will rise in the spring. As usual, the do-nothing Congress is to blame.
The Association for Postal Commerce (aka PostCom), a multi-industry trade group for business mailers, reports that USPS is readying itself for the next postal
price change to be effective April 26, 2015." PostCom's "heard it through the grapevine" reports on Postal Service doings are usually right on the mark.
Rates could rise nearly 1.7% for the "market-dominant" mail classes, such as First-Class, Standard, and Periodicals. That could mean a one-cent increase in the price of Forever Stamps, to an even 50 cents.
What's driving the agency's change of plans, according to PostCom, is that Congress has failed to act on five nominations to USPS's Board of Governors, which oversees the Postal Service and must approve any rate changes. If Congress doesn't approve some of the nominations before its holiday recess, scheduled to start later this week, the board will lack a quorum until next month -- and maybe much longer if Congress deadlocks or is too busy naming post offices to act on the nominations.
With no quorum, no rate increases could be enacted. It's not completely clear whether the governors, while still having a quorum, could approve a rate increase but leave it to management's discretion when, or even whether, to file the new rates with the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The Board of Governors announced Oct. 1 that it would forgo the usual inflation-based January rate increase "in part because of the uncertainty
regarding the exigent price increase." (See The Postal Service Giveth, and the Paper Market Taketh Away.)
The exigent surcharge of 4.3%, intended to compensate USPS for its losses during the Great Recession, is scheduled to expire next summer, but the agency has gone to court to increase and extend the surcharge.And some politicians have talked of making it permanent.
Also prompting the Postal Service's change of plans may be declining oil prices, which could lead to decreases in the Consumer Price Index. Normal increases in market-dominant rates are limited to changes in the CPI.
The current CPI-based ceiling of 1.678% may be the largest USPS will see for at least a few months if petroleum prices keep dropping. Unless USPS files for an increase, the ceiling will be recalculated Dec. 17 (not Dec. 15, as I originally mis-stated) when the Labor Department reveals the CPI for November.