U.S. Postal Service hikes rates, box rental fees

U.S. Postal Service hikes rates, box rental fees

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— Photo by Susan Safford

New prices for the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) mailing and shipping services and post office box rental fees go into effect on January 22.

The price of a first-class stamp for a one-ounce letter will increase by one cent to 45 cents. Post office box rents will increase on average 2.1 percent, according to the USPS website.

Wednesday, Oak Bluffs postmaster Paul Leonard said he notified box holders about the upcoming increases in a letter that did not include rates, because he had not received any information yet. Vineyard Haven postmaster Joe Massua said post office box holders will receive a letter on Monday about the rent increases and extra services the USPS will now offer.

The Post Office will now offer short term post office boxes for a three-month period, rather than the current six-month minimum rental period. Customers will be able to sign up and pay online or at post office retail locations.

The rent hikes are being driven by changes in designations for post office locations that are considered to be in competition with private retailers that also offer mailing and shipping services. The Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven post offices have been designated in the “Group 4″ competitive category, according to USPS spokesman Dennis Tarmey.

Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, USPS products and services were split into two categories, “monopoly” and “competitive.” Post office boxes designated “monopoly” are subject to a price cap based on the rate of inflation, according to the March 2010 issue of PCC, a USPS newsletter.

On June 17, 2010, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) approved a USPS request to charge competitive prices and offer more services for about 32,000 post office boxes at 49 locations, to generate more revenue.

The USPS filed another request last May with the PRC to redesignate additional post office boxes “competitive,” at post offices serving residents within five miles of private mailbox service.