GAO calls postal e-commerce efforts unfocused

GAO calls postal e-commerce efforts unfocused

By Brian Krebs

SEPT. 11'The Postal Service's forays into electronic commerce don't look encouraging, the General Accounting Office said in a report released last week.

GAO said USPS wasn't keeping its books very well and generally appeared to be doing things on the fly. The congressional auditors also said it wasn't clear that postal e-commerce ventures were properly planned or reviewed. They said USPS kept changing revenue estimates, in some cases by as much as several million dollars.

The report, U.S. Postal Service: Electronic Commerce Activities and Legal Matters, posted at, noted that the eBillPay service on the Web at is losing money.

Edward J. Gleiman, chairman of the Postal Rate Commission, said the pragmatic issue was whether "e-commerce products can reasonably be expected to produce a significant amount of revenue support to the postal system." Gleiman spoke last Thursday at a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing.

E-commerce companies in the electronic stamp market believe USPS has no business competing with them. Postal regulators hold a similar view. Gleiman said the service's primary focus should be to deliver the mail and not to engage in activities unrelated to its core purpose.

Deputy postmaster general John Nolan told the subcommittee, "The still-emerging e-business marketplace puts us all through a learning process as we seek to understand and anticipate revolutionary changes."

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