PRC approves postage incentive for Seamless Acceptance of Periodicals and Marketing mail

Tonda Rush

Dec 1, 2020

The Postal Regulatory Commission this week approved the Postal Service’s proposed 2021 postage rates, including a new incentive of $.001 per piece for mail introduced through a new Seamless Acceptance program. PRC also approved an average 1.45 percent increase in Periodicals postage rates. The new rates apply as of midnight Jan. 24, 2021.

The Commission also approved the Postal Service’s proposal for a new discount for the use of flats trays (white tubs) for some Outside County mailings and noted the Postal Service’s intention to provide new data in 2021 on how much cost USPS avoids by handling the flats trays/tubs instead of sacks.

The discounts offered in this initial phase range from $.075 for carrier route/5-digit trays entered at the delivery unit to $.112 for those trays entered at the Sectional Center Facility. In this initial phase, USPS is not offering a discount for all trays.

Included in this decision is the traditional 5% discount for mailings outside the county totaling fewer than 5,000 pieces.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Cordell Publications in Cordell, Oklahoma, counseled publishers to check their mailing statements to be sure they are taking the under-5,000-piece Outside County discount, traditionally called the Limited Circulation discount.

“This is a postal privilege that NNA earned for newspapers more than a decade ago when it worked with Congress on the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. NNA has learned over the years that some publishers are unaware that this discount is available to them if their software does not automatically calculate it for them. During this time of extraordinarily tight cash resources, I am reminding our members to take a look at that Postal Service Form 3541 mailing statement to make sure you are getting the discount. It shows up on the first page as Preferred Price Discount,” Wesner said.

The Seamless Acceptance discount is new to this year’s rates. It is intended to encourage mailers to shift from having mail verified by a postal clerk to an automated process that is verified only by audit. Under the Seamless Acceptance process, newspaper mailers would be required to become part of the Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode program, submit documentation electronically and enter into a period called “Seamless Parallel,” while USPS and the mailer collaborate to make sure mail is properly prepared and declared on the postage statements. During Seamless Parallel, there is no penalty for mail where the publisher’s declared weight and sorting levels do not match data from USPS verification. After the Parallel phase ends, mailers can be assessed penalties if the submitted data do not match the audit data.

Seamless Acceptance is not yet required except for mail that previously was entered in central printing plants where postal clerks verified mail in the plants. Local Business Mail Entry units will not require participation in Seamless Acceptance for now, so publishers needing real-time, local verification will be able to continue that process. But any mailer can opt to shift to Seamless Acceptance now. Consultation with postal software experts and the Business Mail entry personnel at USPS are the way to begin the shift.

Tonda Rush is the director of public policy and serves as general counsel to the National Newspaper Association. Email her at