The Legal Issues of Mail Delays
Recently, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would begin slowing its service to cut costs. Critics have been quick to say that slower delivery will delay bills and other essential pieces of mail and will undermine the public’s confidence in the postal service.
Details of the Slow-Down
Beginning on October 1, the postal service revised the previous three-day service—standard for first-class mail such as tax documents, bills, and letters—to approximately five-day service. However, the two-day delivery for first-class mail in local areas would remain the same.
Based on the new service plan, Western states and Florida would see the largest slow-down in deliveries. Those areas should expect an 18% to 40% delay in delivery time.
While DeJoy proposes that this new process will save the postal service money, not everyone is convinced. Instead, the slower service may discourage people from using the USPS, which will result in lost revenue.
Impact on the Public
There is concern that these new standards will unfairly impact the elderly, the disabled, and those living in rural areas. If they rely on the postal service to deliver checks and if they pay their bills by mail, the delay will cause problems on both ends. If their checks are late, they would likely pay bills later, and then those payments would take longer to arrive. In addition, critical documents such as passports and tax forms, as well as prescription medication, which rely on the postal service, could arrive too late.
Possible Legal Action
On Thursday, October 7, a formal complaint was filed by 20 state attorneys general regarding the USPS changes. The complaint was submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission.
In this complaint, the state attorneys general argued that the USPS made these radical delivery revisions without first receiving an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission. They stated that this mistake would do harm to residents of the United States who rely on the mail, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
The state attorneys general are closely watching the fallout from the new postal service delivery standards. As time goes by, they may choose to take the matter to court.
Contracts and Other Legal Documents
The new USPS delivery expectations may be particularly challenging for those mailing legal documents with deadlines. For example, if a payment on an insurance policy is not received by its due date, a policy can be canceled. Also, if a contract must be received, signed, and returned by a given date, delays could result in the agreement being canceled. With those and other scenarios in mind, it might be tempting not to use the USPS at all. However, some contracts and other legal agreements specify what type of delivery service is acceptable.
If you are concerned about such issues, there are steps you can take:
· Review all contracts and other agreements and make sure you understand any requirements related to method of delivery.
· If your agreement allows delivery methods other than the USPS, consider using those.
· Document all your mailings. Send mail certified or with return receipt requested. If you must use first-class mail, send a copy of the document by email and note that it was mailed the same day.
· Try to avoid sending revocations and offers that are not effective until they are recorded as received by mail. Instead, use electronic communication when possible.
· With new contracts, limit provisions that require using the USPS and opt for alternative means when possible.
· Expect delays in sending and receiving mailed materials, so mail items early when feasible.
The USPS delays may cause inconveniences for personal mail, but when they impact legal documents and agreements, you must defend your rights. Be sure to keep detailed records of mailings, make copies, and retain receipts.
If a postal service delay causes a policy or contract to be canceled, be sure to consult legal counsel. The attorneys at Cotney can review your case and help you determine the best course of action.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.