USPS OIG: Reevaluating the Universal Service Obligation

May 6, 2020 (RISC-WP-20004)

  • The need for a comprehensive review of the postal USO in this country has been discussed for over a decade.  
  • Defining a USO that provides clear guidance for a future Postal Service will be a challenging task, as it will need to balance customer needs while still ensuring financial stability of the Postal Service.  

The purpose of the Postal Service’s universal service obligation (USO) is to ensure that all postal users receive a minimum level of service at a reasonable price. However, many aspects of the Postal Services current USO are not clearly defined. A further defined USO would protect postal customers and provide guidance to the Postal Service about what changes it can implement in response to financial challenges. The OIG studied eight other posts that have made recent changes to their USO and identified some trends that provide insights into the future of the Postal Service’s USO. 

The OIG found that the two most common changes to the USO have been a reduction in speed of delivery (how fast a product is delivered) and frequency of delivery (how many days a week a product is delivered). However, there is no “one size fits all” solution, and USO changes have been customized for each country’s specific challengesFor this reason, a study of user needs is an important first step to modifying the USO.


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