USPS decertifies mechanical meters
Washington, D.C. — Tampering that was costing the U.S. Postal Service — and ultimately U.S. taxpayers — more than $100 million a year has prompted the USPS to decertify all mechanical postage meters. A recall is underway.
The ruling will affect countless government departments and agencies, including libraries, police departments and municipal courts. There are currently 780,000 mechanical meters in use, about half the postage meters in the United States.
The USPS took action after the General Service Administration released a report documenting the problem of postage theft with mechanical meters. By tampering with the wheels and cogs of the devices, which work much like parts of old cash registers, unscrupulous users have been able to print postage without paying the USPS. The decertification order went into effect in June 1996 with a prohibition on the sale of new mechanical meters.
Those currently in use are being phased out over the next two years. By Dec. 31, 1997, all mechanical system meters, such as those attached to a larger mailing base, must be removed from service. All other mechanical meters should be taken out of service by Mar. 1, 1999.
Government agencies now face the task of identifying which meters need to be replaced and how to best initiate the procurement process to meet the USPS timeline. Tony Adkins, spokesman for Neopost, a Hayward, Calif., manufacturer of electronic postage meters, offers these tips:
Verify whether your postage meter has been decertified and when it must be replaced. The manufacturer will have this information;
Assess your present and future mailing needs to determine what features and capabilities your next meter must have;
When shopping for new equipment, consider the total cost, including supplies, service and miscellaneous costs over the long term.
Consult other users before purchasing any equipment. Suppliers know what equipment is built to do, but users know whether it actually lives up to claims;
Solicit input from staff and operators. The people who actually run the equipment are often the best resource for evaluating overall needs;
Be sure the system software works in both the mailing and shipping environments if your mailroom handles mail and parcels. Can it provide information for tracking, accounting and cost identification data in both areas? Can the mail accounting system network with the shipping accounting system? If it can, then additional functions, such as rate shopping, piece counts, department chargebacks, alternate insurance options, zone analysis and package weight analysis, are possible.