UPU’s Integrated Product Plan and US International Mailers — by Merry Law

By Merry Law, WorldVu LLC, and a Mailers Hub expert consultant


The Universal Postal Union (UPU), is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. Among other activities, it sets the rules for international mail exchanges with rules and regulations set out for Letter Mail and Parcel Post.  The 192 member countries meet in a quadrennial Congress, most recently in Istanbul in October 2016, to set policy and direction for the UPU.

At the Istanbul Congress, a proposal for an Integrated Product Plan was passed.  This document will form the basis of changes to the regulations for international letter mail, beginning in January 2018.  The changes will apply to mail to and from the United States, but any UPU actions requiring changes to USPS mailing requirements are reviewed and implemented according to US laws and procedures.  Domestic mail is not affected by UPU regulations.  But the changes are substantial and any mailer sending items internationally needs to be aware of what’s coming.

The requirements for the IPP should provide more consistency in postal products and treatment among all countries if the current plan is followed.  The IPP will be enacted in two phases, with the first in January 2018, and the second in January 2020, following an extraordinary UPU meeting of all countries late in 2019.  Those requirements are to

  • address the needs of the market place as well as customers;
  • create a classification based on content (documents and goods), remuneration and product features;
  • eliminate product silos and weight silos for a seamless 0-30 kg weight range for items containing goods;
  • create simpler product offerings;
  • facilitate compliance with security and customs requirements for electronic advance data (EAD);
  • ensure sustainability of the network and take account of the different capabilities of member countries;
  • ensure the goal of accelerating actions to modernize and integrate the UPU’s postal network.

Beginning in January 2018, postal items will be differentiated as “documents” or “goods”.  Since postal items will be differentiated by content, a definition for both documents and goods needs to be introduced into the UPU Acts and more detailed definitions will be developed from them.  The details have not yet been drafted and the broader definitions in the Acts, below, are not precise.  Whether the final definitions differ from the definitions of goods and documents used for customs is not known at this time.

  • Definition of “documents” in the UPU Acts: “a postal item consisting of any piece of written, drawn, printed or digital information, excluding objects of merchandise, whose physical specifications lie within the limits specified in the Regulations.”
  • Definition of “goods” in the Acts: “a postal item consisting of any tangible and movable object other than money, including objects of merchandise, which does not fall under the definition of “documents” as provided above and whose physical specifications lie within the limits specified in the Regulations.”

The definition for the letter format (“E”) will be amended to small packets containing goods up to a weight of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and will be classified letter-post items.  The definition of small letters (“P”) and large letters (“G”) will be amended in the Letter Post Regulation and their content will be restricted to documents only up to a total weight of 500 grams (1.1 pounds).  As of January 2018, flats sent to other countries cannot contain goods.

A “menu approach” will be used for service level, price and value-added services.  The value-added services will apply to both document and goods categories.  The menu includes payment on delivery, tracking, signature on delivery, consignment service, delivery options, insurance, express delivery service, delivery to the addressee in person (for trackable items), registration, merchandise return service, international business reply service, and free of charges and fees delivery service.  (There are details still to be decided.)

Future customs and security requirements will make the provision of electronic advance data (EAD) mandatory on all postal items containing goods.  This will require an amendment of the Letter Post Regulation and make the application of the UPU’s S10 barcode identifier to small packets obligatory.  While the USPS anticipated regulations will take priority for US mailers, more information on this barcode is available on the UPU website.  It is scheduled to become effective January 1, 2018.

Watch for announcements of changes from the USPS to the International Mail Manual (IMM).

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