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U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail Regulations
Contributor By Lauren Hughes, eHow Contributing Writer


1. Domestic Priority Mail is a 1 to 3 day delivery service used mainly to mail documents, gifts, and merchandise. Delivery time for most International Priority Mail packages is 6 to 10 days. Unlike Express Mail Service, a service that provides you with a refund if your package is not delivered on time, there is no delivery guarantee with Priority Mail. This means you get no compensation if your package is delivered late or is misdelivered. You can, however, purchase insurance for items to receive reimbursement if your package is lost or damaged.


2. The Postal Services offers both flat rate and weight and distance pricing for Priority Mail. As of 2009, domestic flat rate prices ranged from $4.95 to $11.95 based on the size of the box. Flat rate boxes are provided by the Postal Service. Domestic Priority Mail weight and distance prices ranged from $4.95 to $108.25. Prices for flat rate International Priority Mail ranged from $10.95 to $53.95 in 2009, with International Priority Mail weight and distance pricing ranges from $19 to $360.05.

Balloon Pricing

3. The Postal Service also has a category called "balloon pricing" for domestic Priority Mail packages that weigh less than 20 pounds but measure more than 84 inches when the length, width and height are added together. These packages range in price from $14.30 to $22 and are more expensive than the normal weight and distance fees. To understand this pricing concept, imagine mailing a very large inflated balloon. The balloon would take up a lot of space, but would weigh very little. Packages that fit in this category take up a lot of space in the Postal Service vehicles, but would be very cheap to mail if based strictly on weight.

Size and Weight Restrictions

4. The contents of a domestic flat rate package must fit within the Priority Mail flat rate packaging supplied by the Postal Service and weigh less than 70 pounds. For domestic Priority Mail packages shipped based on weight and distance, the packages must be less than 70 pounds and be smaller than 108 inches when the height, length and width are combined. For International Priority Mail, the limit for the flat rate envelope or small box is 4 pounds and the limit for all other flat-rate boxes is 20 pounds. International Priority Mail packages shipped on weight and distance must be less than 70 pounds and may not be larger than 42 inches in length, or 79 inches if length and width are combined.

Prohibited Items

5. The United States Postal Service is subject to Title 18 United States Code 1716, which prohibits the mailing of "all matter that is outwardly or of its own force dangerous to life, health, or property." The prohibited items include: explosives gasses; flammable and combustible liquids; flammable solids; oxidizing substances; organic peroxides; toxic or infectious substances; radioactive materials; and corrosives. The Postal Service also prohibits "miscellaneous hazardous materials" to cover hazardous items that do not fit into these eight categories. Under federal law, mailing these items is a crime punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Other restrictions may vary depending on which country you're sending the package to.



Press and Information Division


17 May 2001

Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-340/99

TNT Traco SpA v Poste Italiane SpA


In the case of a service of general economic interest, postal dues must enable compensation to be paid for any losses that may result from operating the universal postal service

In Italy, the collection, carriage and delivery of mail are, in principle, services provided exclusively by the State. Any contravention is punishable by a fine (20 times the postage rate, subject to a minimum of 800 lire). Since 1998 the State has provided the service through a joint stock company - Poste Italiane SpA - in which the Ministry for the Treasury is the sole shareholder.

Under Italian legislation an undertaking providing an express mail service not forming part of the universal service must pay postal dues to the operator responsible for the universal service (in this case, Poste Italiane), amounting to the postage rate normally payable.

In February 1997, three employees of Poste Italiane inspected TNT Traco SpA's subsidiary in Genoa. Having ascertained that express mail had been collected, carried and delivered in breach of the regime conferring exclusivity, they imposed a fine on TNT Traco of more than 46 million lire.

TNT Traco brought an action before the District Court in Genoa, relying on the principles of free competition laid down in the Treaty on European Union.

The Italian court first ordered Poste Italiane to repay TNT Traco the 46 million lire. It considered that the supervisory, regulatory and disciplinary powers previously held by Poste Italiane had been transferred to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications by a 1994 Law.

It then referred questions to the Court of Justice concerning the compatibility of the Italian legislation with the Community competition rules.

The Court observes that Poste Italiane is, for the purposes of the Treaty, a public undertaking which has been granted special or exclusive rights, since it is not required to pay, as must any other operator, postal dues amounting to the postage rate normally payable. As such, it has a dominant position in Italy .

Italian law creates a situation in which the undertaking which has been granted special or exclusive rights cannot avoid abusing its dominant position since it is paid for services which it has not itself supplied.

The Court considers that the Italian court must ascertain whether that situation affects trade between Member States (as it would, for example, if the obligation to pay Poste Italiane the postal dues at issue also applied to economic operators supplying express mail services between the Italian Republic and another Member State). In that case, Italian law would be contrary to the Community rules on free competition.

Poste Italiane and the Italian Government submit that the obligation to pay the postal due is justified by the need to safeguard the economic stability of the undertaking entrusted with the operation of the universal postal service.

According to the case-law of the Court, the grant of special or exclusive rights to an undertaking entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest may be justified by the need to ensure that the undertaking's special task is performed and provided that the development of trade between Member States is not affected to such an extent as would be contrary to the interests of the Community.

The Court acknowledges that an undertaking like Poste Italiane is responsible for operating a service in the general economic interest, since it secures the universal postal service, irrespective of the profitability of the sector being served.

In order to enable such an undertaking to perform that special task, it may prove necessary not only to permit it to offset its profitable sectors against its less profitable sectors, but also to require suppliers of postal services not forming part of the universal service to pay postal dues which contribute to the financing of the universal service and enable that service to be provided in conditions of economic stability.

The total proceeds from the postal dues, paid by all economic operators supplying an express mail service, may not, however, exceed the amount necessary to offset any losses in the universal postal service.

Furthermore, the Court considers that when the undertaking providing the universal postal service supplies an express mail service, it must also be required, under the same conditions, to pay the postal dues.

Unofficial document for media use only; not binding on the Court of Justice.

Available in French, Italian, English and German.

For the full text of the judgment, please consult our Internet page at approximately 15.00 hrs today.

For further information please contact Fionnuala Connolly: Tel: (00 352) 4303 3355; Fax: (00 352) 4303 2731