US Court of Appeals rules in favor of PRC

Tonda Rush

Dec 1, 2021

Users of the mail could face substantial postage increases in 2022 and 2023 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit turned down an appeal by the National Newspaper Association, News Media Alliance and others.

The court gave the victory to the Postal Regulatory Commission, which issued new rate-setting rules in November 2020, for the U.S. Postal Service.

The court found that the PRC had the authority to issue the new rules, turning away a large group of mailer organizations that protested the PRC’s ruling. As a result, USPS no longer is confined by the price cap set in the 2006 postal reform law and can raise rates through a complex formula that takes into account the loss of mail volume, Congressional mandates to prefund postal retirees’ health benefits and other factors, including inflation.

The PRC rule was responsible for the Aug. 29, 2021, postage increase. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said USPS will forgo an increase in January 2022 but will implement an increase in July 2022 and twice a year thereafter.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said NNA was not only disappointed by the Court’s ruling but now feared that aggressive rate increases would accelerate the decline of mail.

“The ruling was not a huge surprise, given that the Court is always deferential to the regulator, which is the PRC in this case. We knew going into the case that odds were heavy against us for overturning the rate formula, but we needed the court to tell us the extent of PRC authority. Now that we have that answer, the task ahead is much tougher. USPS intends to seek increases even if service continues to decline because it wants to invest some $40 billion in new equipment and facilities to handle packages.

“NNA wants the Postal Service to be a reliable partner for package volume because this is a system that runs on volume. But we do not want the system to so divert investment, energy and attention that mail suffers from neglect. We need an affordable and dependable universal service for newspapers and our communities.”

Wesner said NNA was actively pursuing coalitions and allies in an effort to address the new challenges of rising prices and falling service.