oversight

U.S. Postal Service: Information About Restrictions on Mailbox Access

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee
                on the Postal Service, Committee on
                Government Reform and Oversight,
                House of Representatives

May 1997
                U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
                Information About
                Restrictions on
                Mailbox Access




GAO/GGD-97-85
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      General Government Division

      B-272447

      May 30, 1997

      The Honorable John M. McHugh
      Chairman, Subcommittee on the Postal Service
      Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
      House of Representatives

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      This letter responds to your request for information to help the
      Subcommittee assess whether changes are needed to the law that
      essentially gives the U.S. Postal Service exclusive access to mailboxes (18
      U.S.C. 1725). The Postal Service believes that this law, generally called the
      “mailbox restriction,” is needed to protect postal revenue, facilitate
      efficient and secure delivery of mail, and promote the privacy of postal
      customers. Some major competitors of the Service believe the mailbox
      restriction law should be repealed because, in their view, it is unnecessary,
      unfair, and adversely affects their delivery operations. As the
      Subcommittee considers proposed postal reform legislation,1 which,
      among other things, includes a demonstration project to test relaxing the
      mailbox restriction, the issue of mailbox access has become hotly debated,
      with little empirical data available to support the arguments, pro or con.
      To assist the Subcommittee in considering whether to test changes to the
      mailbox restriction, we agreed to obtain and provide information on
      (1) the purpose and history of the mailbox restriction; (2) current U.S.
      public attitudes toward the mailbox restriction; (3) views of the U.S. Postal
      Service, competitors, major mailers, postal labor organizations, the U.S.
      Department of Justice, and the Postal Rate Commission on the mailbox
      restriction; and (4) the experience of the United States and certain other
      countries regarding mail theft and the need for a mailbox restriction.

      To address the above objectives, among other methods, we contracted for
      a national survey of 1,013 randomly selected adults (18 and older), which
      achieved a 65 percent response rate and can be generalized to all adults in
      the continental United States.2 We also used a 1-page questionnaire to
      survey 59 selected domestic organizations, including the U.S. Postal
      Service, competitors, major mailers, postal labor organizations, the U.S.
      Department of Justice, and the Postal Rate Commission, and obtained 41
      written responses. We gave a more extensive questionnaire to eight


      1
       Postal Reform Act of 1997, H.R. 22, 105th Cong. (1997).
      2
       The overall results were surrounded by 95 percent confidence intervals of plus or minus 4 percent or
      less.



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                   selected foreign postal administrations and received written responses
                   from all of them.


                   Congress adopted the mailbox restriction in 1934 to protect postal revenue
Results in Brief   by preventing delivery of unstamped matter to mailboxes, which
                   reportedly was having a considerable impact on postal revenues. The U.S.
                   Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the mailbox restriction in
                   1981. Civic groups, which had delivered unstamped material regarding
                   their activities to mailboxes, claimed that the mailbox restriction abridged
                   their First Amendment rights to free speech and the press. The Court
                   denied the groups’ claim, ruling that the law and enforcement actions were
                   not geared in any way to the content of the message placed in mailboxes.
                   The Court also found that mailboxes are an essential part of national mail
                   delivery and that postal customers agree to abide by laws and regulations
                   that apply to their mailboxes in exchange for the Postal Service agreeing
                   to deliver and pick up mail in them.3

                   On the basis of our national survey, we estimated that the vast majority of
                   adults (82 percent) are opposed to allowing just anyone to put mail into
                   their mailboxes.4 However, views differed regarding the desirability of
                   mailbox access for particular companies or particular items. For example,
                   58 percent favored allowing express mail companies, e.g., Federal Express
                   and United Parcel Service (UPS), to put packages into mailboxes. Fewer
                   adults favored allowing companies to leave other types of items in
                   mailboxes, such as utility bills (48 percent); magazines or newspapers
                   (38 percent); and catalogs, coupons, or ads (29 percent). Sixty-six percent
                   of adults reported their households receive most of their mail in mailboxes
                   without locks. If there were neither the mailbox restriction nor regulatory
                   restrictions, these mailboxes would be legally and practically accessible to
                   private delivery companies or others with respect to delivery of items not
                   covered by the Postal Service’s letter mail monopoly.

                   Postal stakeholders expressed mixed views about the need for the
                   mailbox restriction. The Postal Service, the seven major postal labor
                   unions and management associations, and a contractors’ association said
                   that the mailbox restriction should remain unchanged. The Service said it
                   protects postal revenue, facilitates the efficient and secure delivery of
                   mail, and promotes the privacy of postal customers. The seven major

                   3
                    U.S. Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, 453 U.S. 114 (1981).
                   4
                   Views on mailbox access were about the same for all adults surveyed as for the 87 percent of adults
                   who said their households get most of their mail in mailboxes.



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postal labor unions and management associations and a contractors’
association gave similar reasons, saying that the restriction ensures mail
security and privacy, among other things. The Justice Department also
opposed any relaxation, saying the restriction deters the distribution of
sexually explicit materials to mailboxes because certain laws and
regulations governing the distribution of such materials5 apply only to mail
delivered by the Postal Service and would not apply to others if they were
allowed to deliver material to mailboxes.

In contrast, the Service’s competitors generally said the restriction should
be repealed or modified because it is unnecessary, impedes competition,
and infringes on private property. A majority of mailer groups and mailers
that responded favored retaining the restriction but others had varying
views about the extent to which the restriction should be changed.

Although the Postal Inspection Service—which is responsible for
enforcing postal laws—had no data on the number of mail thefts from
mailboxes, Inspection Service officials said that mail theft from mailboxes
is a very serious problem in the United States. Six of the eight foreign
postal administrations we surveyed reported minor or no problems with
mail theft from mailboxes in their countries. Like the Postal Service, the
eight foreign postal administrations also did not have data on the number
of mail thefts from mailboxes. However, two factors apparently contribute
to the better mailbox security reported by most of the eight foreign postal
administrations we surveyed: (1) the mix of residential mail receptacles
was different from the mix in the United States, with the postal
administrations of two foreign countries reporting that the majority of
their residential customers use mail slots in doors or walls instead of
mailboxes and another foreign postal administration reporting that its
residential customers are more likely to use locked mailboxes; and
(2) seven foreign postal administrations reported that they generally do
not collect outgoing mail from residential customers’ mailboxes.

Officials of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said the mailbox restriction
helps deter mail theft and makes it easier to detect, investigate, and
resolve cases of mail theft from mailboxes. The eight foreign postal
administrations we surveyed said that they do not have mailbox restriction
laws, have never had exclusive access, and did not believe that they
needed it. Five foreign postal administrations said that exclusive mailbox
access would be inconsistent with the concept of fair competition in their
countries.

5
 39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010 and Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) C032 and C033.



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             In 1934, Congress enacted a law known as the “mailbox restriction” that
Background   prohibits anyone from placing mailable matter without postage into any
             mailbox. This law, 18 U.S.C. 1725, gives the Postal Service a virtual
             monopoly over mailboxes and currently reads as follows:

             “Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of
             accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in
             any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or
             delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage
             thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.”


             Under current law, a violation of the mailbox restriction law is an
             infraction that can be punished by a fine but not by imprisonment. The
             maximum fine for each offense is $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for
             organizations.6

             In addition to the mailbox restriction law, Postal Service regulations
             provide that “every letterbox or other receptacle intended or used for the
             receipt or delivery of mail” may be used only for matter bearing postage
             and that any mailable matter found in mailboxes without postage is
             subject to payment of the same postage as if it had been carried by mail.7
             Postal Service regulations are broader than the mailbox restriction law.
             The regulations restrict items placed upon, supported by, attached to,
             hung from, or inserted into a mailbox.8 However, the regulations do not
             apply to door slots, among other things.9

             The Postal Inspection Service is responsible for enforcing postal laws,
             including the mailbox restriction. The Inspection Service has maintained
             that because the mailbox restriction limits access to mailboxes to the
             Service and the customer, it helps deter mail theft and helps the Inspection
             Service enforce postal laws against mail theft. Because the Inspection
             Service believes that the mailbox restriction is relevant to its



             6
              18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571.
             7
              DMM D041.1.1, D041.1.3, and P011.2.2.
             8
              DMM D041.1.3.
             9
              Exemptions allow (1) mailable matter to be left without postage in door slots and nonlockable bins or
             troughs used with apartment house mailboxes; (2) mailable matter to be left without postage on a
             hook or ring attached to the post or other support for the mailbox; and (3) unstamped delivery of
             newspapers that are regularly mailed second-class to curbside mailboxes on Sundays and national
             holidays, if they are removed before the next scheduled day of mail delivery. See DMM D041.1.2,
             D041.2.10, and Rockville Reminder, Inc. v. United States Postal Service, 480 F.2d. 4 (1973).



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investigations of mail theft, obstruction of mail, and mail fraud, these laws
are discussed below.

Federal laws prohibit mail theft, obstruction of mail, and mail fraud. Theft
of U.S. mail is a federal criminal offense punishable by fine and/or
imprisonment under two federal laws: (1) 18 U.S.C. 1708 makes it a crime
for anyone to steal U.S. mail or unlawfully possess stolen U.S. mail; and
(2) 18 U.S.C. 1709 makes it a crime for Postal Service employees to steal
U.S. mail. Obstruction of U.S. mail is also a criminal offense under two
federal laws: (1) 18 U.S.C. 1701 makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly
and willfully obstruct or retard the passage of U.S. mail; and (2) 18 U.S.C.
1702 specifically prohibits anyone from taking U.S. mail from post offices,
mailboxes, and letter carriers before delivery to the addressee with the
intent to obstruct the correspondence or pry into the business of another.
Mail fraud is prohibited by a federal law, 18 U.S.C. 1341, which makes it a
criminal offense for anyone to use the U.S. mail in any scheme of fraud.

In addition, federal laws govern the distribution of sexually oriented
advertisements through the U.S. mail, which may be distributed to
mailboxes.10 These laws, and the postal regulations that implement them,11
enable postal customers to request that (1) they be added to lists of
customers who should not receive sexually explicit advertisements
through the U.S. mail and/or (2) the Service issue a prohibitory order
directing a particular mailer to refrain from making further mailings to that
addressee. These laws and regulations also establish packaging and
labeling requirements for U.S. mail that contains sexually explicit material.

The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for prosecutions of
violations of postal related laws. U.S. Attorneys’ offices, which are part of
the Justice Department, have the responsibility for prosecuting these
cases. The U.S. Attorneys’ offices work with the Postal Inspection Service
and other law enforcement authorities who are involved in these cases.

The Postal Service Glossary of postal terms defines a mailbox as “any
receptacle or container used by customers to receive mail at their
residence either by door-to-door or by curbside delivery.” Widespread use
of mailboxes began in the 1890s, and today the Postal Service deposits
mail for most residential customers in mailboxes purchased and installed
by the customers. The Service also collects outgoing mail from most


10
  39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010.
11
  DMM C032 and C033.



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mailboxes. Curbside mailboxes generally have a flag that can be raised to
notify the letter carrier that outgoing mail has been left for collection.

Even if there were no statutory restrictions on mailbox access, locked
apartment mailboxes, cluster mailboxes, and U.S. post office boxes as they
are currently used would generally not be accessible to private delivery
companies. As a practical matter, only the Postal Service and the postal
customer are currently supposed to have keys to these receptacles, which
do not have slots for incoming mail. Figure 1 illustrates different types of
mailboxes, door slots, and U.S. post office boxes.




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Figure 1: Mailboxes, Door Slots, and Post Office Boxes Used in the United States




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Source: Photographs by the U.S. Postal Service and GAO.



Page 9                                        GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
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The Postal Service does not have complete data available on the total
number of residential mailboxes. However, available Postal Service
information shows residential delivery to approximately 42 million
curbside mailboxes; 10 million cluster boxes; 17 million post office boxes;
17 million centralized residential delivery points, such as apartment house
mailboxes, delivery centers, or mailroom receptacles; and 34 million other
residential delivery points, such as mailboxes attached to houses,
mailboxes behind the sidewalk, and door slots. Some postal customers
with U.S. post office boxes may receive some mail at their residences and
some mail at their post office boxes.

As we reported in September 1996, the mailbox restriction is related to the
Service’s monopoly over the delivery of letter mail.12 We said that if the
Private Express Statutes13 were relaxed, retaining the mailbox restriction
would help shield the Postal Service from private competition for
First-Class letters because mailers wish to safeguard bills and other mail
with personal or confidential information. However, we also reported that
if the Private Express Statutes were relaxed, the mailbox restriction would
be less likely to shield the Service from competition for Priority Mail and
heavyweight First-Class mail. This mail is typically delivered to businesses
and often is too large to fit in residential mailboxes. In addition, the five
principal national carriers of U.S. domestic expedited and parcel mail
often rely on a signature for delivery. We reported that these national
carriers generally did not see lack of mailbox access as a barrier to
pursuing increases in their shares of these markets. However, if Congress
allows more private letter delivery, the mailbox restriction may become
more important because the firms might find the use of mailboxes
desirable to improve competitiveness.

We testified in January 1996 on eight foreign countries that operate
without laws comparable to the mailbox restriction.14 These countries
were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand,
Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Private delivery companies in these
countries can deliver advertising and other items not covered by their
letter mail monopolies by depositing material into mailboxes without


12
 Postal Service Reform: Issues Relevant to Changing Restrictions on Private Letter Delivery
(GAO/GGD-96-129A/B, Sept. 12, 1996).
13
 The Private Express Statutes are a set of criminal and civil laws (18 U.S.C. 1693-1699 and 39 U.S.C.
601-606) that established the Service’s monopoly restricting the private delivery of letter mail.
14
 U.S. Postal Service: A Look at Other Countries’ Postal Reform Efforts (GAO/T-GGD-96-60, Jan. 25,
1996).



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              locks, into locked mailboxes with slots for receiving mail, or into mail
              slots in doors or walls.

              In recent years, some of the Service’s main competitors and some critics
              of its letter mail monopoly have called for repeal of the mailbox
              restriction. In June 1996, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Postal
              Service, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight,
              introduced legislation to reform the Postal Service (H.R. 3717) that
              included testing changes to the mailbox restriction. The Chairman cited
              the experiences of foreign countries that do not have statutory mailbox
              restrictions as a key reason to test relaxing the mailbox restriction. The
              bill would have created a demonstration project to test relaxing the
              mailbox restriction in certain areas for 3 years. The Subcommittee held
              four hearings on the bill and received a number of comments on the
              proposed mailbox demonstration project, both pro and con. The bill was
              not reported out of the Subcommittee during the 104th Congress.
              However, in January 1997, the Chairman introduced H.R. 22, a similar bill
              that proposed the same mailbox demonstration project.


              To determine the purpose and history of the mailbox restriction, we
Scope and     reviewed relevant documents, including the current law, the House and
Methodology   Senate reports submitted in support of the law when it was passed in 1934,
              the 1981 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld its constitutionality, and
              current Postal Service regulations that restrict access to mailboxes.

              To determine current public attitudes toward the mailbox restriction, we
              developed survey questions and contracted with the University of
              Maryland’s Survey Research Center to conduct a national telephone
              survey. A total of 1,013 randomly selected adults (18 and older) in the
              continental United States were interviewed between August 12 and
              October 14, 1996. The survey results are representative of all adults in the
              continental United States, and the overall results were surrounded by
              95 percent confidence intervals of plus or minus 4 percent or less.
              Appendix I describes the survey methodology more fully, and appendix II
              gives the responses to each survey question.

              To obtain the views of key stakeholders on the mailbox restriction, we
              used a 1-page questionnaire to survey 59 selected domestic organizations,
              including (1) the Postal Service; (2) the 5 national expedited mail and
              parcel delivery firms the Service has identified as its principal competitors
              and an association that represents expedited mail and parcel delivery



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firms; (3) 14 alternate delivery firms and alliances, which we judgmentally
selected to obtain a range of company sizes, geographic locations,
companies in areas with different population levels, and both
newspaper-owned firms and other firms; (4) 28 mailer groups and mailers,
which we judgmentally selected to obtain the views of mailing industry
trade associations and mailers that represent those who send significant
volumes of mail, and mailer groups and mailers in the credit card,
financial, and insurance industries; (5) 7 major postal labor unions and
management associations and an association that represents contractors
who transport and deliver U.S. mail; (6) the Justice Department; and
(7) the Postal Rate Commission. We received a total of 41 written
responses. Results based on responses from national expedited mail and
parcel delivery firms, alternate delivery firms and alliances, and mailer
groups and mailers are not generalizable to all such organizations. See
appendix I for more detail.

To provide information on the experience of the United States and certain
other countries regarding mail theft and the need for a mailbox restriction,
we obtained information from the U.S. Postal Service and eight selected
foreign postal administrations. We interviewed U.S. Postal Inspection
Service headquarters officials who oversee enforcement of postal laws.
They provided written responses to our questions, and we reviewed the
relevant documents they submitted. We also obtained documentation of
Service policies regarding delivery of mail to mailboxes and relevant data
from Service headquarters officials. In addition, we gave questionnaires to
postal administrations in eight foreign countries that do not have laws
restricting mailbox access: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, The
Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We received
written responses from all eight foreign postal administrations.
Information in this report on mailbox security is primarily based on
information provided by the Postal Inspection Service and the eight
foreign postal administrations. We did not independently verify this
information, evaluate the effectiveness of open access to mailboxes in the
eight foreign countries, or reach an independent judgment on whether
theft of mail from mailboxes is a problem in the United States or the eight
foreign countries. See appendix I for more detail on our objectives, scope,
and methodology.

We did our audit work in Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas, from June
1996 through February 1997 in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards.




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                              We requested comments on a draft of this report from the Postmaster
                              General. The Postal Service’s comments are discussed in this letter,
                              summarized at the end of this letter, and reprinted in appendix V. We also
                              arranged for the eight foreign postal administrations to review relevant
                              sections of this report. We incorporated their technical comments to
                              improve the accuracy of the report where appropriate.


                              Congress enacted the statutory mailbox restriction in 1934 to protect the
Purpose and History           former U.S. Post Office Department’s15 revenue and keep unstamped
of the Mailbox                matter out of mailboxes. The law was intended to stop businesses from
Restriction                   delivering or using private carriers to deliver mailable matter to mailboxes
                              without paying postage, which reportedly deprived the former Post Office
                              Department of considerable revenue. In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court
                              upheld the constitutionality of the law. It had been challenged by an
                              umbrella organization for a number of civic groups that delivered
                              unstamped notices and pamphlets to mailboxes. The Court ruled against
                              the groups’ claim that the law abridged their rights to freedom of speech
                              and press under the First Amendment, because the law was not geared to
                              the content of items left in mailboxes. The Court also found that
                              mailboxes are an essential part of national mail delivery and that postal
                              customers agree to abide by laws and regulations that apply to their
                              mailboxes in exchange for the Postal Service agreeing to deliver and pick
                              up mail in them.


Congress Adopted the          Congress enacted the 1934 statute, according to Senate and House reports,
Mailbox Restriction in 1934   to protect the former U.S. Post Office Department’s revenue and prevent
to Protect Revenues and       unstamped matter from being placed in mailboxes.16 The reports said that
                              the law was intended to curb the practice of persons other than postal
Keep Unstamped Matter         employees depositing mail in mailboxes without paying postage by making
Out of Mailboxes              it a criminal offense. Businesses, particularly utility companies, reportedly
                              were delivering or using private carriers to deliver circulars and
                              statements of accounts in mailboxes without postage. The reports said
                              that these practices deprived the former Post Office Department of
                              considerable revenue. The reports also noted that the stuffing of
                              mailboxes with unstamped matter was a source of considerable
                              annoyance to the Post Office Department.


                              15
                                The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-375) reorganized the U.S. Post Office Department into
                              the U.S. Postal Service.
                              16
                                S. Rep. No. 73-742 at 1-2 (1934) and H.R. Rep. No. 73-709 at 1-2 (1934).



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The Constitutionality of   In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law
the Mailbox Restriction    restricting mailbox access.17 The statute was challenged by an umbrella
Was Upheld in 1981         organization for a number of civic groups that delivered unstamped
                           notices and pamphlets to mailboxes. The Court denied the groups’ claim
                           that the law abridged their rights to freedom of speech and press under the
                           First Amendment because the statute and enforcement actions were not
                           geared in any way to the content of the message placed in mailboxes. In its
                           ruling, the Court found that mailboxes are an essential part of the Postal
                           Service’s nationwide system for the delivery and receipt of mail and that
                           although mailboxes are privately owned, the postal customer implicitly
                           agrees to abide by statutory and regulatory restrictions that apply to the
                           mailbox in exchange for the Service agreeing to deliver and pick up mail in
                           it.

                           During litigation of the case, the Service offered a number of justifications
                           for the mailbox restriction in addition to protecting postal revenue and
                           reducing unstamped matter left in mailboxes. The Service said the mailbox
                           restriction aided investigations of mail theft by enabling investigators to
                           assume that anyone other than a letter carrier or the postal customer who
                           opens a mailbox may be stealing mail. For example, the Service said the
                           restriction helped it to investigate thefts of government benefit checks
                           from mailboxes. Moreover, the Service said that if civic associations but
                           not others could leave circulars in mailboxes, letter carriers would have to
                           remove and examine individual unstamped items to determine their
                           legality. The Service said that if the mailbox restriction were eliminated or
                           if civic groups could leave items in mailboxes, letter carriers would be
                           confronted with a larger amount of unstamped mailable matter that they
                           would be obliged to separate from outgoing mail. According to the Service,
                           these additional activities by letter carriers would add substantially to the
                           daily cost of mail delivery. The Service also said that the restriction
                           protects the privacy interests of postal customers by giving them a way to
                           send and receive mail without their correspondence becoming known to
                           other members of the community.




                           17
                             U.S. Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, 453 U.S. 114 (1981).



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                     Views on mailbox access expressed in our national survey varied
Views on Mailbox     depending on who would be given access to the mailbox and what
Access Depended on   materials they would leave in the mailbox.18 The vast majority of adults
Who Would Be Given   (82 percent) opposed allowing “any individual person” to put mail in their
                     mailboxes. In contrast, 58 percent favored allowing “express mail
Access and What      companies like Federal Express or UPS [United Parcel Service]” to leave
Would Be Delivered   packages in their mailboxes, “if they are small enough to fit.” Opinions
                     were about evenly divided over whether the “electric, gas, or water
                     company” should be allowed to put bills inside mailboxes, with 48 percent
                     in favor and 44 percent opposed. Conversely, 54 percent opposed and
                     38 percent favored allowing companies to put subscription magazines or
                     newspapers inside their mailboxes. Sixty-six percent opposed and
                     29 percent favored allowing companies to put “catalogs, coupons, or ads”
                     inside their mailboxes (see fig. 2).




                     18
                       Eighty-three percent of adults said that they are aware that only the Postal Service leaves mail in
                     their mailboxes, which is the intended effect of the mailbox restriction.



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Figure 2: Views of Adults Differed on Allowing Any Individual or Certain Types of Companies to Leave Mail in Mailboxes

Percent of adults
100


                                                                                                                                 82
 80

                                                                                                     66

 60         58
                                                                          54
                                      48
                                                44
 40                                                              38
                       35
                                                                                            29

 20
                                                                                                                       14


  0

           Express mail               Electric, gas, or        Companies leaving          Companies leaving            Any individual
        companies such as             water company              magazines or             catalogs, coupons,
      Federal Express or UPS                                     newspapers                     or ads

      Organizations/individuals having access


                    Favor

                    Oppose


                                                 Note: Percentages do not add to 100 percent because volunteered responses such as “no
                                                 opinion” are not shown.

                                                 Source: GAO survey.




                                                 In addition, strong support and opposition to expanded mailbox access
                                                 varied depending on who would put items in the mailbox and what they
                                                 would deliver. Fifty-nine percent said they strongly opposed allowing any
                                                 individual to put mail into their mailboxes, while only 2 percent said they
                                                 strongly favored such access. Also, 40 percent said they strongly opposed
                                                 allowing companies to put catalogs, coupons, or ads inside their
                                                 mailboxes; 7 percent strongly favored it. In contrast, 15 percent said they
                                                 strongly opposed allowing express mail companies to put packages inside
                                                 their mailboxes; similarly, 19 percent strongly favored it. This was the only
                                                 question on mailbox access for which about as many adults expressed
                                                 strong support as strong opposition.



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                             Not only did adults in general distinguish between who should have
                             mailbox access and for what items, but certain subgroups identified in our
                             survey tended to hold views different from others. For example, adults
                             with more formal education were more likely to support allowing express
                             mail companies access to the mailbox. Fifty-five percent of those with a
                             high school education or less, 60 percent with some college education, and
                             69 percent of college graduates said that express mail companies should
                             be allowed to leave packages in their mailboxes. In contrast, adults with
                             more formal education were more likely to oppose allowing companies to
                             put catalogs, coupons, or ads in their mailboxes. Sixty percent of those
                             with a high school education or less opposed allowing companies to put
                             such matter into their mailboxes, compared to 71 percent of those with
                             some college education and 75 percent of college graduates. The Postal
                             Service’s latest Household Diary Study on mail received by households
                             found that households headed by adults with more formal education
                             received more pieces of advertising mail and tended to make more mail
                             order purchases.19

                             Moreover, adults using mailboxes without locks were more likely to favor
                             allowing some others access to their mailboxes, compared to adults with
                             locked mailboxes.20 For example, 53 percent of those using mailboxes
                             without locks favored allowing utility companies to put bills in their
                             mailboxes, compared to 30 percent of those with locked mailboxes.
                             Forty-four percent of those using mailboxes without locks favored
                             allowing companies to put magazines or newspapers inside their
                             mailboxes, compared to 18 percent of those with locked mailboxes.
                             Seventeen percent of those using mailboxes without locks favored
                             allowing any individual to put mail in their mailboxes, compared to
                             5 percent of those with locked mailboxes.


When Asked to Choose,        When asked to sum up their views on mailbox access by choosing which
Adults Generally Preferred   of two general statements came closest to their views, 61 percent said that
Mailbox Access Only by       “only the U.S. Postal Service should put mail inside mailboxes”; 32 percent
                             said that “some companies should also be allowed to put mail inside
the Postal Service           mailboxes” (see fig. 3).



                             19
                                The Household Diary Study, Fiscal Year 1995, U.S. Postal Service, Finance (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
                             Postal Service, Nov. 1996), pp. III-16, III-22, VI-163, VI-165.
                             20
                               Results for adults using locked mailboxes and mailboxes without locks were based on adults who
                             said their households get most of their mail in curbside mailboxes, mailboxes attached to their houses,
                             a cluster of mailboxes near their homes, or apartment house mailboxes.



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Figure 3: When Asked to Choose,
Adults Generally Favored Limiting                                                          Some companies should be
Mailbox Access to the Postal Service                                                       allowed to put mail in mailboxes

                                                                                           4%
                                                                                           Agree with both statements
                                                                                           equally

                                                                                           2%
                                                                                           It depends/Agree with neither
                                                                                           statement

                                                                                           2%
                                                                                           No opinion




                                                      •




                                           • 32%

                                                                      61% •                Only the U.S. Postal Service
                                                                                           should put mail in mailboxes




                                       Note: Adults were asked which of two statements came closest to their own views. Percentages
                                       do not add to 100 percent because of rounding.

                                       Source: GAO survey.




                                       The results of this general question were not necessarily consistent with
                                       other, more specific questions on mailbox access because (1) adults were
                                       asked to “sum up your views” by giving a single response to one question;
                                       and (2) adults were asked to choose the response that came closest to
                                       their views, even if it did not match their views for each of the specific
                                       questions on mailbox access. Adults in our national survey held a range of




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                             views on mailbox access, so no single question should be used as the sole
                             measure of public opinion on the subject. In response to specific survey
                             questions, adults generally indicated that their views on mailbox access
                             depended on whether the mailbox access was limited to particular
                             companies or items.


Two-Thirds of Adults         Two-thirds (66 percent) of adults we surveyed reported that their
Received Mail in Mailboxes   households get most of their mail in mailboxes without locks. If there
Without Locks                were neither the mailbox restriction nor regulatory restrictions, mailboxes
                             without locks would be legally and practically accessible to private
                             delivery companies or others with respect to delivery of items not covered
                             by the Postal Service’s letter mail monopoly.

                             Our survey asked adults two questions to determine whether their
                             households use mailboxes without locks. First, the survey asked adults
                             how their households get most of their mail. A total of 87 percent said that
                             their households get most of their mail in either curbside mailboxes
                             (42 percent), mailboxes attached to their houses (25 percent), in a cluster
                             of mailboxes near their homes (11 percent), or in apartment house
                             mailboxes (10 percent).21 The other 13 percent said their households get
                             most of their mail either at U.S. post offices (8 percent), through door slots
                             (4 percent), or in some other way (1 percent).

                             Second, our survey asked, “is there a lock on your mailbox, or not?” (This
                             question was asked of the 87 percent who had said their households get
                             most of their mail in either curbside mailboxes, mailboxes attached to
                             their houses, a cluster of mailboxes near their homes, or apartment house
                             mailboxes.) In response, 66 percent of all adults in our national survey
                             said their households get most of their mail in mailboxes without locks;
                             21 percent said their mailboxes are locked. As described above, the other
                             13 percent said their households get most of their mail either at U.S. post
                             offices (8 percent), through door slots (4 percent), or some other way
                             (1 percent).

                             Another question asked adults how concerned they were that mail could
                             be stolen out of their households’ mailboxes (i.e, curbside mailboxes,
                             mailboxes attached to their houses, a cluster of mailboxes near their
                             homes, or apartment house mailboxes). Twenty-five percent of all adults
                             in our national survey said that they were either “very concerned”
                             (10 percent) or “somewhat concerned” (15 percent) that mail could be

                             21
                               Percentages of each type of mailbox do not add to 87 percent because of rounding.



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                       stolen out of their households’ mailboxes. Thirty percent said they were
                       “not very concerned,” and 31 percent said they were “not at all
                       concerned.”22

                       The survey also asked adults how often they left outgoing mail in their
                       households’ mailboxes (i.e, curbside mailboxes, mailboxes attached to
                       their houses, a cluster of mailboxes near their homes, or apartment house
                       mailboxes). Sixteen percent of all adults in our survey said their
                       households generally leave outgoing “letters or bills” in their mailboxes
                       “all of the time,” 11 percent said they leave outgoing mail in their
                       mailboxes “most of the time,” and 13 percent said they leave outgoing mail
                       in their mailboxes “some of the time.” The Postal Service has said that it
                       can collect outgoing mail from mailboxes more efficiently because the
                       mailbox restriction prevents others from leaving items in mailboxes.


                       Postal stakeholders expressed mixed views on the need for the mailbox
Stakeholders Had       restriction. The Service, the seven major postal labor unions and
Mixed Views on the     management associations, and a contractors’ association said the mailbox
Need for the Mailbox   restriction should remain unchanged. The Service said the mailbox
                       restriction protects postal revenue, facilitates efficient and secure mail
Restriction            delivery, and promotes customer privacy. The seven major postal labor
                       unions and management associations and a contractors’ association gave
                       similar justifications, saying that the restriction protects the security and
                       privacy of the mail, among other things. The Justice Department also
                       opposed any relaxation, saying the restriction deters the distribution of
                       sexually explicit materials to mailboxes because certain laws and
                       regulations governing the distribution of such materials23 apply only to
                       mail delivered by the Postal Service and would not cover such material if
                       deposited into mailboxes by persons other than the Postal Service.

                       In contrast, the Service’s competitors said the restriction should be
                       modified or repealed. They said mailboxes are private property, and the
                       owners should decide who has access; other laws exist to protect mail
                       security; and the mailbox restriction impedes competition. A majority of
                       mailer groups and mailers that responded to our questionnaire favored
                       retaining the restriction, but others had varying views about the extent to
                       which the restriction should be changed (see app. III for a copy of the


                       22
                         One percent declined to express a level of concern, and 13 percent were not asked this question
                       because they had said their households get most of their mail either at U.S. post offices, through door
                       slots, or in some other way.
                       23
                         39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010 and DMM C032 and C033.



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                                                questionnaire). Table 1 summarizes responses to our questionnaire on the
                                                mailbox restriction. Results based on responses from national expedited
                                                mail and parcel delivery firms, alternate delivery firms and alliances, and
                                                mailer groups and mailers are not generalizable to all such organizations.


Table 1: Overall Responses as to Whether the Mailbox Restriction Should Be Kept Unchanged, Modified, or Repealed
                                             “Does your company/organization support keeping, modifying, or repealing 18
                                                                            U.S.C. 1725?”
                                                                                  Keep                Modify             Repeal                    No
                                                              Total             the law              the law             the law             position
U.S. Postal Service, postal labor unions and
management associations, contractors’
association,a U.S. Department of Justice, and
Postal Rate Commissionb                                          11                   10                    0                    0                   1
National expedited mail and parcel delivery
firms                                                              4                   0                    0                    4                   0
Alternate delivery firms and alliances                             9                   0                    4                    5                   0
Mailer groups and mailers                                        17                   10                    3                    0                   4
Total                                                            41                   20                    7                    9                   5
                                                Note: See appendix IV for a list of organizations that were selected to receive the questionnaire.
                                                a
                                                This association represents contractors who transport and deliver U.S. mail.
                                                b
                                                 The Postal Rate Commission declined to take a position on the mailbox restriction because “it
                                                could be construed by some as inappropriate and a potential conflict of interest regarding our
                                                ratemaking responsibilities.”

                                                Source: Responses to GAO questionnaire.




Postal Service, Justice                         The Service told us that the mailbox restriction is justified for the three
Department, Major Postal                        broad reasons provided earlier by the Service in the Greenburgh case: it
Labor Unions, and                               protects postal revenue, facilitates the efficient and secure delivery of
                                                mail, and promotes the privacy of postal customers. But the Service also
Management Associations                         noted that just deleting the mailbox restriction from the United States
Supported the Mailbox                           Code apparently would not, in itself, authorize private carriers to deposit
Restriction                                     matter in mailboxes since postal regulations also prohibit such behavior.
                                                According to the Service, its authority to issue these regulations comes
                                                from its rulemaking authority under Title 39 of the United States Code,
                                                without regard to the mailbox restriction, which is part of Title 18. These
                                                regulations were upheld by a U.S. Court of Appeals in the Rockville
                                                Reminder case. Additionally, in commenting on our report, the Deputy
                                                Postmaster General expressed serious concerns with the idea of resolving
                                                the mailbox restriction issue by allowing selective access to postal



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customers’ mailboxes, based either on the kind of matter to be delivered
or on each postal customer’s individual preference. He explained that
(1) the resulting judicial, administrative, and enforcement burdens would
far outweigh any benefits to mailers or postal customers, and (2) it may be
difficult or impossible for Congress to write a law that gives some parties
access to mailboxes which would withstand a court challenge from other
parties who had been denied access to mailboxes.

The Service has also supported the mailbox restriction in written
responses to questions from the House Subcommittee on the Postal
Service. In 1995, the Inspector General and Chief Postal Inspector for the
Postal Service wrote that the Postal Service should maintain exclusive
access to mailboxes.24 He cited concern about the security of mail and the
potential that without the mailbox restriction, mailboxes would be
overcrowded with materials delivered by others. In October 1996, the
Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors wrote that “. . . we are
opposed to any relaxation of the Private Express Statutes and to
unrestricted access to the mailbox.” He explained that a limited monopoly
over the delivery of letter mail and exclusive access to mailboxes have
generally been regarded as required to preserve the necessary financial
underpinnings for affordable universal postal service, which the Service is
obligated to provide. He said the universal service requirement, uniform
letter rate, and many public service activities of the Postal Service are
directly related to the Private Express Statutes and the mailbox
restriction. He added, “We believe that these restrictions cannot be relaxed
without serious threat to universal service.”25

The seven major postal labor unions and management associations and a
contractors’ association unanimously supported the mailbox restriction.
These organizations’ justifications were similar to the Postal Service’s,
emphasizing the need to limit mailbox access to the Service and the
customer in order to protect mail security and privacy. Seven of these
organizations stated that the mailbox restriction protects mail security.
The organizations variously said the restriction protects universal service,
helps the Service enforce other postal laws, and protects Service revenues.
In 1996, the seven major postal labor unions and management associations
and the contractors’ association provided testimony or written statements


24
 October 31, 1995, letter to the Chairman, Subcommittee on the Postal Service, Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight, House of Representatives, to be included with the record of the
hearing held by the Subcommittee on July 25, 1995.
25
 October 1, 1996, letter to the Chairman, Subcommittee on the Postal Service, Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight, House of Representatives.



Page 22                                         GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
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to the House Subcommittee on the Postal Service that opposed or
expressed strong concerns about the proposed mailbox demonstration
test.

The Justice Department opposed the use of mailboxes by anyone other
than the Postal Service. Certain federal laws and postal regulations govern
the distribution and labeling of sexually explicit advertisements and allow
postal customers to request not to receive such materials.26 These federal
laws and postal regulations apply only to mail delivered by the Postal
Service and would not cover such material if deposited into mailboxes by
persons other than the Postal Service. In its response to our questions, the
Justice Department said:

“Currently, because of statutory limits on access, usually only mail which has been
processed through the Postal Service can be found inside mailboxes. In the past, many
companies sent unsolicited sexually oriented advertisements to postal customers, causing
a furor and resulting in federal criminal prosecutions. Today, companies which use the mail
know that materials will arrive at a mailbox only if the firms comply with regulations which
are substantial and can be monitored by postal employees. The repeal of existing
authorities will permit anyone to put material into mailboxes, which will undoubtedly
permit the return of sexually explicit advertisements that do not adhere to postal
regulations. For that reason, we oppose the use of mailboxes by anyone other than the
[U.S. Postal Service].”


The Acting Deputy Chief, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section,
Justice Department Criminal Division, told us that without the mailbox
restriction, he believed there would be substantial amounts of illegal
sexually explicit and obscene (SEO) materials delivered to mailboxes
without going through the postal system. The official said that distributors
of SEO materials will try to take advantage of any opportunity to achieve
widespread distribution of such materials. He said the mailbox restriction
deters placement of such materials because (1) the Postal Inspection
Service currently has authority under other laws to investigate violations
involving items delivered to mailboxes and is aided by the mailbox
restriction, which limits access to mailboxes to the Postal Service and the
postal customer; and (2) the mailbox restriction essentially makes a
suspect of anyone opening a mailbox other than the Postal Service and the
postal customer. The official said that although many laws cover the
distribution of SEO materials, without the mailbox restriction it would be
more difficult to identify and apprehend violators delivering illegal SEO
materials because almost anyone could legally open mailboxes and not be



26
  39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010 and DMM C032 and C033.



Page 23                                       GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
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                             a suspect. The official also said that such potential problems could be
                             tempered somewhat if only large private delivery companies such as
                             Federal Express were allowed access to mailboxes, because there are a
                             limited number of such companies and because they are large enough to
                             provide adequate security and assurance that materials they deliver meet
                             applicable laws.


Postal Service Competitors   The four national expedited mail and parcel delivery firms that responded
Wanted the Mailbox           to our questionnaire said that the mailbox restriction should be repealed.
Restriction Repealed or      An executive at one of the three firms who explained her firm’s views said
                             that the public interest would be served by repealing the mailbox
Modified                     restriction because U.S. history has shown that absent special
                             circumstances, competition is generally the best and fairest way to
                             advance the economy. The executive said there is no economic evidence
                             to demonstrate that the mailbox restriction is needed to maintain universal
                             postal service; it is unnecessary for protecting mail security, since other
                             laws punish theft and trespass; and it was not intended to restrict the
                             delivery of express parcels when it was passed in 1934.27 The executive
                             also said the mailbox restriction is a matter of great frustration to the firm,
                             and a representative of the firm has previously said it imposes
                             considerable difficulties on private carriers. An executive at a second firm
                             favoring repeal said that mailbox owners should be able to use their
                             property as they wish. An executive at a third firm said that the mailbox
                             restriction gives the Postal Service an unfair advantage because the firm is
                             currently forced to leave items in doorways and other places rather than in
                             the mailbox. The executive said repeal would allow it to leave documents
                             and packages in a safer and more secure location, which would help
                             protect them from the weather.

                             Among the nine alternate delivery firms and alliances that responded to
                             our questionnaire, four favored modification of the mailbox restriction and
                             five favored repeal. An executive at one firm that favored modification
                             said that private carriers with access to mailboxes should have to meet
                             certain verification and delivery requirements. An executive at another
                             firm that favored modification said that the Service should receive some
                             type of compensation from others who use mailboxes. Executives at the
                             five alternate delivery firms and alliances favoring repeal gave a number of

                             27
                               The executive also said her firm would support two possible limitations to mailbox access:
                             (1) allowing individuals to limit access to their own mailboxes; and (2) allowing the Postal Rate
                             Commission to restrict access in areas or circumstances where evidence shows that the public interest
                             in universal service requires it, and such restrictions would apply equally (e.g., if competitors could not
                             put express shipments in mailboxes, neither could the Postal Service).



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                            reasons to support their positions, including that mailbox owners should
                            decide who has access.


Ten of 17 Mailer Groups     Ten of the 17 mailer groups and mailers that responded to our
and Mailers Supported the   questionnaire said they want to keep the current mailbox restriction, 3
Mailbox Restriction         favored modification of the law, and 4 had no position. Executives of these
                            organizations that favored keeping the restriction primarily expressed
                            concerns about security of the mail, but other concerns included customer
                            privacy, protection of postal revenue, unwanted material being placed into
                            mailboxes, and efficient mail delivery by the Postal Service.

                            We asked those who said the mailbox restriction should be modified or
                            repealed to indicate whether certain companies or “private individuals”
                            should be “allowed to place mailable matter without postage into private
                            mailboxes.” In contrast to the four national expedited mail and parcel
                            delivery firms that said that mailboxes should be open to private
                            individuals, six of nine alternate delivery firms and alliances did not want
                            to allow private individuals access to mailboxes (see table 2). Executives
                            at four of these alternate delivery firms and alliances said that there should
                            be some form of licensing or positive identification of those allowed
                            access to the mailboxes.

                            The three mailer groups and mailers that favored having the law modified
                            said that private individuals should not be allowed to place matter into
                            mailboxes (see table 2). Executives at two of the three organizations that
                            favored modifying the law to allow the proposed mailbox access test said
                            that those who deposit matter into mailboxes should be licensed or
                            registered. An executive at the other organization said that delivery
                            services should be allowed to distribute individually addressed mail pieces
                            to mailboxes and said the amount of mail addressed to “occupant” should
                            be limited. In addition, an executive at one mailer association that took no
                            position on the mailbox restriction also supported the proposed mailbox
                            access test.




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Table 2: Views on Mailbox Access Among Those Who Said That the Mailbox Restriction Should Be Modified or Repealed
                                “If your company/organization supports modifying or repealing 18 U.S.C. 1725, should the
                                  following be allowed to place mailable matter without postage into private mailboxes?”
                                                                                                  Newspaper,
                                Private express        Gas, electric,   Catalog, coupon,            magazine              Private
                                mail companies      water companies       ad distributors         distributors        individuals
National expedited mail and               4 yes                 4 yes                4 yes              4 yes               4 yes
parcel delivery firms                      0 no                  0 no                 0 no               0 no                0 no
Alternate delivery firms and              9 yes                 7 yes                8 yes              9 yes               3 yes
alliances                                  0 no                  2 no                 1 no               0 no                6 no
Mailer groups and mailers                 3 yes                 3 yes                2 yes              3 yes               0 yes
                                           0 no                  0 no                 1 no               0 no                3 no
Total who favored                        16 yes               14 yes                14 yes             16 yes               7 yes
modification/ repeal                       0 no                 2 no                  2 no               0 no                9 no
                                          Source: Responses to GAO questionnaire.




                                          Although the Postal Inspection Service—which is responsible for
Theft of Mail From                        enforcing postal laws—had no data on the number of mail thefts from
Mailboxes in the                          mailboxes, Inspection Service officials said that theft of mail from
United States and in                      mailboxes is a very serious problem in the United States. Six of the eight
                                          foreign postal administrations we surveyed reported that theft of mail
Eight Foreign                             from mailboxes is a minor or no problem within their countries. Like the
Countries                                 Postal Service, the eight foreign postal administrations also did not have
                                          data on the number of mail thefts from mailboxes. However, two factors
                                          appear to contribute to the better mailbox security reported by most of the
                                          eight foreign postal administrations we surveyed. First, the mix of
                                          residential mail receptacles was different in three foreign countries from
                                          the mix in the United States. Postal administrations of two of these
                                          countries reported that the majority of their residential customers use mail
                                          slots in doors or walls rather than using mailboxes, and another foreign
                                          postal administration reported that its residential customers use a higher
                                          proportion of locked mailboxes than the United States. Second, seven
                                          foreign postal administrations reported that they generally do not collect
                                          outgoing mail from residential customers’ mailboxes.

                                          U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials said the mailbox restriction helps
                                          deter mail theft. They said that the mailbox restriction limits access to the
                                          Postal Service and the postal customer, which makes it easier to detect,
                                          investigate, and resolve cases involving theft of mail from mailboxes. The
                                          eight foreign postal administrations we surveyed said that they did not




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                          have mailbox restriction laws, have never had exclusive access, and did
                          not believe that they needed it. Five foreign postal administrations said
                          that exclusive mailbox access would be inconsistent with the concept of
                          fair competition in their countries.


The Inspection Service    Theft of mail from mailboxes is a very serious problem in the United
Considers Theft of Mail   States, according to Postal Inspection Service officials. Although the
From Mailboxes to Be a    Inspection Service data on mail theft do not identify whether the theft
                          occurs from a mailbox or other location, the data show that the Inspection
Serious Problem           Service received over 2.4 million mail theft complaints during fiscal year
                          1996. Over 1.2 million complaints were listed in the Mail Theft Reporting
                          System (MTRS), which is the repository for complaints reported to the
                          Inspection Service from external sources, such as credit card issuers, state
                          and federal check issuing agencies, and money order issuers. Of the
                          1.2 million MTRS complaints, about 877,000 concerned nonreceipt of credit
                          cards sent through the mail, which resulted in an additional 175,000
                          complaints involving fraudulent transactions with credit cards.

                          Postal customers used the Mail Loss/Rifling Report (Form 1510)28 to file
                          nearly 1.2 million general customer complaints regarding theft, delay, and
                          mistreatment of mail in fiscal year 1996. Although the proportion of the
                          total 2.4 million complaints for mail theft that involved theft of mail from
                          mailboxes was not specifically identified, the Inspection Service noted in
                          its response to our questions that “Although not all [of the 2.4 million
                          complaints] are directly attributable to thefts from mailboxes, it is safe to
                          characterize a large and significant portion of this number as theft from
                          mailboxes.”

                          The Inspection Service reported 4,777 arrests for mail theft in fiscal year
                          1996, including 499 postal employees and 4,278 other persons. In the same
                          year, there were 4,224 convictions for mail theft, including 548 postal
                          employees and 3,676 other persons.29 The Inspection Service said it spent
                          more than 1 million hours annually investigating and working on mail theft
                          cases in fiscal years 1992 through 1996. There were no available data on
                          the number of arrests, convictions, or workhours that were related
                          specifically to theft of mail from mailboxes.



                          28
                           According to Inspection Service officials, there is little overlap between Form 1510 complaints and
                          complaints recorded by MTRS.
                          29
                            Some convictions resulted from arrests made in the previous year(s).



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                             According to Inspection Service Officials, most theft of mail from
                             mailboxes involves incoming mail, such as credit cards,30 but theft of
                             outgoing mail is also a problem in numerous communities across the
                             nation. Some local Inspection Service officials have advised postal patrons
                             in their jurisdictions to avoid leaving outgoing mail in their mailboxes and,
                             if they do, not to raise the mailbox flags because this can be a signal to
                             thieves that there is mail in the mailboxes.

                             The Service did not have complete data available on the total number of
                             mailboxes from which it collects outgoing mail, but Service officials told
                             us that outgoing mail is collected from most mailboxes. Postal Service
                             regulations state that mailable matter is generally to be collected from
                             rural mailboxes if postage is fully prepaid or money equal to the required
                             postage is furnished.31 Service policy calls for both city and rural carriers
                             to collect outgoing mail from curbside mailboxes when the flags are
                             raised, even if there is no mail for delivery that day to the mailboxes.
                             Service data show there are about 42 million of these residential curbside
                             mailboxes. City carriers are also directed to collect outgoing mail with
                             prepaid postage if it is placed next to, in, or on mailboxes when they
                             deliver mail to customers. Service data show that there are about
                             34 million residential delivery points, which include mail delivered by
                             letter carriers on foot to mailboxes attached to houses, mailboxes behind
                             the sidewalk, and door slots.


Most Foreign Postal          Although the eight foreign postal administrations we surveyed did not
Administrations Said Theft   have data on the number of mail thefts from mailboxes, six said that theft
of Mail From Mailboxes       of mail from mailboxes was not a problem or was a minor problem within
                             their countries. The three postal administrations of Australia, France, and
Was Not a Serious Problem    The Netherlands said that theft of mail from mailboxes was not a problem.
                             The postal administration of The Netherlands noted that a majority of its
                             residential customers use mail slots in doors or walls rather than
                             mailboxes and estimated that only about 12 percent of all households in
                             that country use mailboxes. Similarly, the postal administration of the
                             United Kingdom said that theft from mailboxes did not apply because the
                             vast majority of its residential customers use mail slots in doors or walls
                             instead of mailboxes. Two of the foreign postal administrations, New



                             30
                               Postal Inspection Service officials told us that aside from credit cards, other items are stolen from
                             mailboxes, such as credit card solicitations and certain types of checks, such as Treasury checks and
                             tax refund checks.
                             31
                               DMM D042.10.5.



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                                         Zealand Post and Sweden Post, said that theft of mail from mailboxes was
                                         only a minor problem.

                                         The German postal administration, Deutsche Post AG, said theft of mail
                                         from mailboxes was a very serious problem, while Canada Post described
                                         it as a somewhat serious problem. Deutsche Post AG had no current data
                                         available on the theft of mail from mailboxes but said “. . . such thefts lead
                                         to considerable interference with the postal service.” Canada Post said
                                         that although theft of mail was not a serious problem in frequency, it
                                         treated the problem seriously because mail theft ultimately affects its
                                         customers negatively. Canada Post had no statistical data on instances of
                                         mail thefts from mailboxes, and none were available from the Royal
                                         Canadian Mounted Police or Statistics Canada.

                                         In response to six questions, five or more foreign postal administrations
                                         said that their lack of exclusive access to mailboxes within their countries
                                         had not caused or contributed to conditions cited by the U.S. Postal
                                         Service as justifications for its mailbox restriction—that is, to protect
                                         against significant loss of postal revenue, inefficient mail delivery and
                                         collection, decreased mail privacy, increased mail theft, difficulty in
                                         investigating mail theft, and increased mail fraud (see table 3).

Table 3: Views of Eight Foreign Postal
Administrations Regarding Possible       In your opinion, does the postal administration’s
Problems Related to Lack of Exclusive    lack of exclusive access to mailboxes cause or                                               Don’t
Access to Mailboxes                      contribute to any of the following?                               Yes           No           know
                                         1. Significant loss of postal revenue?                               0            6             2
                                         2. Inefficient mail delivery/collection?                             0            8             0
                                         3. Decreased mail privacy?                                           1            7             0
                                         4. Increased mail theft?                                             2            6             0
                                         5. Difficulty investigating mail theft?                              2            5             1
                                         6. Increased mail fraud?                                             1            5             2
                                         Source: Postal administrations in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New
                                         Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.



                                         Although the eight foreign postal administrations generally did not report
                                         specific problems (see table 3), three foreign postal administrations did
                                         report that their lack of exclusive access to mailboxes had caused or
                                         contributed to at least one problem in their country. Canada Post said its
                                         lack of exclusive access to mailboxes had caused or contributed to
                                         increased mail theft but added that was true only for “some [mail theft




                                         Page 29                                        GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                        B-272447




                        from] rural mailboxes that are not locked.” New Zealand Post said its lack
                        of exclusive access to mailboxes had caused or contributed to difficulty in
                        investigating mail theft, explaining that with anyone having access to the
                        mailbox, it could be claimed that an item was stolen after delivery.

                        La Poste of France was the only foreign postal administration that said
                        that its lack of exclusive access to mailboxes had caused or contributed to
                        multiple problems, including increased mail theft, difficulty in
                        investigating mail theft, increased mail fraud, and decreased mail privacy
                        for postal customers. La Poste also said that the U.S. Postal Service’s
                        exclusive access to mailboxes is a model for other countries, as it offers a
                        good first level of security against mail fraud, such as advance fee
                        schemes, look-alike billings, and solicitations disguised as invoices.


Two Factors Appear to   Two factors appear to contribute to the better mailbox security reported
Contribute to Foreign   by most of the eight foreign postal administrations we surveyed. First, the
Mailbox Security        mix of residential mail receptacles was different in three foreign countries
                        from the mix in the United States. Postal administrations of two of these
                        countries reported that the majority of their residential customers use mail
                        slots in doors or walls instead of mailboxes and another foreign postal
                        administration reported that its residential customers use a higher
                        proportion of locked mailboxes than the United States. Second, seven
                        foreign postal administrations reported that they generally do not collect
                        outgoing mail from residential customers’ mailboxes. The overwhelming
                        majority of their customers take their outgoing mail to central collection
                        points, rather than leaving it in the mailboxes to be picked up.

                        Three foreign postal administrations reported that they have a different
                        mix of residential mail receptacles than the United States. Twenty-one
                        percent of the U.S. adults in our national survey said their households get
                        most of their mail in locked mailboxes and 66 percent said they receive
                        most of their mail in mailboxes without locks.32 In contrast, the German
                        postal administration reported that 55 percent of its residential customers
                        get their mail in locked mailboxes, while only 17.5 percent use unlocked
                        mailboxes.33 The postal administration of the United Kingdom reported

                        32
                          The other 13 percent of all adults in our national survey said that their households get most of their
                        mail either at U.S. post offices (8 percent), through door slots (4 percent), or some other way
                        (1 percent).
                        33
                          According to Deutsche Post AG, mail for other German residential customers is (1) delivered through
                        a slot in a door or wall (16 percent); (2) handed directly to them (8 percent); (3) received in a mail
                        room, by a building manager, or by a concierge (3 percent); or (4) delivered to a post office box
                        (0.5 percent).



                        Page 30                                            GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                          B-272447




                          that the vast majority of its residential customers use mail slots in doors or
                          walls instead of mailboxes. Similarly, the postal administration of The
                          Netherlands said that a majority of its residential customers also use mail
                          slots in doors or walls, and estimated that only about 12 percent of
                          households in that country use mailboxes, adding that “These mailboxes
                          are generally locked.” The other five postal administrations of Australia,
                          Canada, France, New Zealand, and Sweden said they could not estimate
                          the proportion of locked and unlocked residential mailboxes.

                          Seven foreign postal administrations reported that they generally do not
                          collect outgoing mail from residential customers’ mailboxes, whereas the
                          U.S. Postal Service collects outgoing mail from most mailboxes. The postal
                          administrations of France and The Netherlands said they do not routinely
                          collect outgoing mail from any mailboxes. In Germany, Deutsche Post AG
                          said it routinely collects mail from only 25,000 mailboxes in rural areas, or
                          less than 0.1 percent of its residential delivery points. Canada Post
                          estimated that it routinely collects mail from some mailboxes in rural
                          areas representing about 6 percent of all mailboxes. New Zealand Post
                          reported that it routinely collects outgoing mail from about 110,000 rural
                          customers’ mailboxes, which would represent about 9 percent of its
                          residential delivery points. Customers who receive “Rural Delivery
                          Service” in New Zealand use mailboxes without locks that have flags that
                          can be used to indicate that outgoing mail is awaiting collection. Australia
                          Post said it does not routinely collect outgoing mail from any mailboxes,
                          but it added that residents may hand fully prepaid letters to the letter
                          carrier. In Sweden, letter carriers will accept outgoing mail from
                          mailboxes, but Sweden Post reported that this is not a common practice.


The Inspection Service    Inspection Service officials told us that the mailbox restriction helps deter
Said the Mailbox          theft of mail from mailboxes by limiting mailbox access. They said that
Restriction Helps Deter   limited access also helps enforce laws against mail theft, obstruction of
                          mail, and mail fraud. They said this limited access makes it easier to
Mail Theft                identify mail theft suspects, simplifies surveillance to identify perpetrators,
                          and makes it easier to resolve cases involving mail stolen from mailboxes.
                          The officials strongly opposed any relaxation of the mailbox restriction,
                          saying it would potentially cause a dramatic increase in theft of mail from
                          mailboxes and impair law enforcement efforts.

                          Inspection Service officials acknowledged that other postal laws exist
                          against mail theft, obstruction of mail, and mail fraud, but they said these
                          laws are most effective because the mailbox restriction limits legal access



                          Page 31                               GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
B-272447




to mailboxes to the Postal Service and the postal customer. First, they said
that limited access helps deter mail theft by making it easier for postal
customers and the Service to detect suspicious activity around mailboxes.
Without the restriction, mail thieves would not need to be as surreptitious,
the officials said. Second, the officials said that the mailbox restriction
makes it easier for the Inspection Service to investigate and resolve cases
involving mail theft or obstruction of mail because it is often necessary to
establish who had physical access to the mailbox to prove that mail was
stolen or obstructed. Inspection Service officials said limited access makes
it easier for law enforcement agencies or postal customers to identify mail
theft suspects because only the Postal Service and the postal customer
have legal access to the mailbox. The Inspection Service generally uses
mailbox surveillance in its investigations when it suspects mail is being
stolen from mailboxes, according to Inspection Service officials. They said
that the Inspection Service uses mailbox surveillance to determine
whether mail theft is occurring at the mailbox, as well as to obtain proof
that a particular suspect is stealing mail. Inspection Service officials also
said that some mail fraud investigations are dependent upon establishing
that only the addressee and the Postal Service letter carrier have legal
access to the mailbox.

Inspection Service officials strongly opposed relaxing or repealing the
mailbox restriction. They said that without the restriction, mail theft cases
would be more difficult to resolve. In their view, any company or person
given legal access to mailboxes could become a potential mail theft
suspect that might need to be investigated when problems such as mail
theft occur.

In addition, the officials said that if the mailbox restriction was relaxed or
repealed, federal laws against mail theft would not apply to items left in
mailboxes by private delivery companies or anyone else because the items
would not be U.S. mail. They said that theft of items other than U.S. mail
from mailboxes would be considered theft of personal property and would
not be investigated by the Inspection Service. Instead, these thefts could
be investigated by the local police, and the Inspection Service would not
be involved in attempting to resolve these cases. Moreover, consistent
with the views of the Justice Department, Inspection Service officials said
that the mailbox restriction helps deter the placement of sexually explicit
materials into mailboxes because, as previously discussed, certain laws
and regulations governing the distribution of sexually explicit materials
apply only to mail delivered by the Postal Service.34

34
  39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010 and DMM C032 and C033.



Page 32                                       GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                            B-272447




Foreign Postal              None of the eight foreign postal administrations we surveyed said they
Administrations Said They   needed a law restricting mailbox access and none have ever had such a
Do Not Need a Mailbox       restriction. Although La Poste of France recognized drawbacks to its lack
                            of exclusive mailbox access, it and four of the other seven foreign postal
Restriction                 administrations said that giving the postal administration exclusive access
                            to mailboxes would be counter to the concept of fair competition for mail
                            delivery. As we reported in September 1996,35 private competitors in some
                            of these countries are allowed to deliver a larger proportion of letter mail
                            than is the case in the United States, where the Postal Service has a
                            monopoly over most letter mail.

                            Australia Post said that restrictions on mailbox access would be counter
                            to national competition policy principles that aim to minimize regulation.
                            The Australian government has encouraged all its business enterprises to
                            be able to compete on equal terms in the market, Australia Post said,
                            adding that Australia Post can compete without gaining undue advantages
                            from exclusive mailbox access. La Poste of France said if it had exclusive
                            mailbox access, this would be against fair competition rules because La
                            Poste would be able to take advantage in competing to deliver mail not
                            covered by its postal monopoly, such as unaddressed printed matter and
                            parcels. Deutsche Post AG of Germany said that exclusive mailbox access
                            would give rise to problems under the fair trade rules. PTT Post, the postal
                            administration of The Netherlands, also said exclusive mailbox access
                            would be an artificial obstruction of competition.

                            New Zealand Post said the main reason there is open access to mailboxes
                            is to provide open competition for delivery of all items except standard
                            letters, adding that it would be placed in a dominant position if it had a
                            monopoly on mailbox access. Canada Post said its monopoly over letter
                            mail is sufficient protection for its core business; and since mailboxes are
                            the private property of customers, they had not seen any need to interfere
                            with their right of ownership.36 Sweden Post said it cannot dictate how
                            mailboxes should be used because they belong to the addressees, adding
                            that most households with mailboxes subscribe to a morning newspaper
                            that is left in the mailboxes. The postal administration of the United
                            Kingdom said it did not need exclusive access to mailboxes because the
                            vast majority of its residential customers receive mail through slots in
                            doors or walls rather than in mailboxes.


                            35
                              GAO/GGD-96-129A/B.
                            36
                             Canada Post also said it has exclusive access to apartment house mailboxes and to community
                            mailboxes similar to U.S. cluster boxes because these mail receptacles are locked.



                            Page 33                                        GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                     B-272447




                     In the Postal Service’s comments (see app. V), the Deputy Postmaster
Agency Comments      General said that he was in general agreement with the information
and Our Evaluation   contained in the report and said that it is a balanced presentation. We have
                     summarized the Postal Service’s views on the importance of the mailbox
                     restriction, and have incorporated their specific comments opposing
                     selective access to mailboxes into the report. The Deputy Postmaster
                     General stressed the Service’s concern that the Private Express Statutes
                     provide the financial underpinning necessary for the Postal Service to
                     provide universal service at a uniform postage rate. He said that the
                     mailbox restriction is an essential companion to the Statutes. He also said
                     that if as a result of legislation, the Statutes were relaxed or eliminated
                     and, concurrently, others were given access to mailboxes, a major portion
                     of the Service’s letter mail volume would potentially be open for diversion.
                     He recognized that it is impossible to precisely predict the consequences
                     of such legislation, but he believed that there would be an immediate and
                     substantial decline in mail volume, which would inevitably unravel the
                     revenue base that supports universal service.

                     We agree that the Statutes have provided the financial underpinning for
                     universal service. As we noted in our report on the Private Express
                     Statutes,37 universal mail service at uniform rates is one of several key
                     issues Congress needs to consider in assessing the desirability of changing
                     the Statutes. In addition, many other factors could affect universal service.
                     Some of these include how Congress might change the Statutes, how
                     competitors might respond, what mail volume might be diverted, and
                     whether the Service can improve service quality and control operating
                     costs.

                     Service officials also provided written and oral technical comments to
                     clarify and correct some of the information in the draft report. We have
                     incorporated these comments into the report where appropriate. Similarly,
                     we arranged for the eight foreign postal administrations to review relevant
                     sections of the draft report. We incorporated their technical comments to
                     improve the accuracy of the report where appropriate.


                     As arranged with the Subcommittee, unless you publicly announce the
                     contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days
                     after the date of this letter. At that time, we will distribute copies of the
                     report to the Ranking Minority Member of your Subcommittee; the
                     Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee on

                     37
                       GAO/GGD-96-129A/B.



                     Page 34                               GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
B-272447




International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, Senate
Committee on Governmental Affairs; the Postmaster General; and other
interested parties. Copies will also be made available to others upon
request.

Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix VI. If you have any
questions about the report, please call me on (202) 512-8387.

Sincerely yours,




Michael E. Motley
Associate Director, Government
  Business Operations Issues




Page 35                              GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Contents



Letter                                                                      1


Appendix I                                                                 38

Objectives, Scope,
and Methodology
Appendix II                                                                44

Questionnaire for
GAO National Survey
on the Mailbox
Restriction and
Overall Responses
Appendix III                                                               51

Questionnaire Sent to
Selected Domestic
Organizations on the
Mailbox Restriction
Appendix IV                                                                52

Domestic
Organizations
Selected to Receive
GAO Questionnaires
on Mailbox Access
Appendix V                                                                 54

Comments From the
U.S. Postal Service




                        Page 36   GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                        Contents




Appendix VI                                                                                          56

Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table 1: Overall Responses as to Whether the Mailbox Restriction             21
                          Should Be Kept Unchanged, Modified, or Repealed
                        Table 2: Views on Mailbox Access Among Those Who Said That                   26
                          the Mailbox Restriction Should Be Modified or Repealed
                        Table 3: Views of Eight Foreign Postal Administrations Regarding             29
                          Possible Problems Related to Lack of Exclusive Access to
                          Mailboxes
                        Table I.1: Outcomes of Telephone Interviewing and Response                   39
                          Rate for Survey of U.S. Adults

Figures                 Figure 1: Mailboxes, Door Slots, and Post Office Boxes Used in                8
                          the United States
                        Figure 2: Views of Adults Differed on Allowing Any Individual or             16
                          Certain Types of Companies to Leave Mail in Mailboxes
                        Figure 3: When Asked to Choose, Adults Generally Favored                     18
                          Limiting Mailbox Access to the Postal Service




                        Abbreviations

                        DMM        Domestic Mail Manual
                        MTRS       Mail Theft Reporting System
                        SEO        Sexually explicit and obscene
                        UPS        United Parcel Service


                        Page 37                             GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


              The Chairman, Subcommittee on the Postal Service, House Committee on
              Government Reform and Oversight, requested that we provide information
              relevant to considering possible changes to 18 U.S.C. 1725, which is known
              as the mailbox restriction. He requested the review shortly before he
              introduced legislation (H.R. 3717, 104th Cong. (1996)) in the 104th
              Congress to reform the Postal Service that included, among other things, a
              demonstration project to test relaxing the mailbox restriction, in certain
              areas for 3 years. This bill was not reported out of the Subcommittee in the
              104th Congress. In January 1997, the Chairman introduced a similar bill
              (H.R. 22, 105th Cong. (1997)) that proposed the same demonstration
              project.

              Our objectives were to obtain and provide information on (1) the purpose
              and history of the mailbox restriction; (2) current U.S. public attitudes
              toward the mailbox restriction; (3) views of the U.S. Postal Service,
              competitors, major mailers, postal labor organizations, the U.S.
              Department of Justice, and the Postal Rate Commission on the mailbox
              restriction; and (4) the experience of the United States and certain other
              countries regarding mail theft and the need for a mailbox restriction.

              To determine the purpose and history of the mailbox restriction, we
              (1) reviewed the mailbox restriction law, 18 U.S.C. 1725; (2) examined the
              legislative history of the mailbox restriction and current Postal Service
              regulations that restrict access to mailboxes; and (3) reviewed court cases
              involving challenges to the mailbox restriction, particularly the 1981 U.S.
              Supreme Court decision that upheld its constitutionality.38 We also
              reviewed relevant federal laws, including laws against mail theft,
              obstruction of mail, and mail fraud; laws governing the distribution of
              sexually explicit materials; and current postal regulations that restrict
              access to mailboxes.39

              To determine current U.S. public attitudes about the mailbox restriction,
              we developed survey questions and contracted with the University of
              Maryland’s Survey Research Center to conduct a national telephone
              survey. A total of 1,013 randomly selected adults (18 and older) in the
              continental United States were interviewed between August 12 and
              October 14, 1996. Survey results are representative of all adults in the
              continental United States.



              38
                U.S. Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, 453 U.S. 114 (1981).
              39
                18 U.S.C. 1341, 1701, 1702, 1708, 1709, and 39 U.S.C. 3008 and 3010, and DMM C032 and C033.



              Page 38                                           GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
                                     Appendix I
                                     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




                                     To obtain a random sample of adults within households, telephone
                                     numbers were randomly generated from a sampling frame of working area
                                     code and three-digit prefix combinations in the continental United States.
                                     This methodology generated both listed and unlisted telephone numbers.
                                     A single adult was selected at random from among all adults residing in
                                     each household that was contacted.

                                     Our questions were asked as part of an “omnibus” survey, which means
                                     that multiple sponsors paid to include their questions in the survey. We
                                     were the only sponsor that asked questions about postal issues.

                                     The response rate to the survey was 65 percent. Table I.1 summarizes the
                                     outcomes of telephone interviewing and the response rate to the survey.

Table I.1: Outcomes of Telephone
Interviewing and Response Rate for   Description                                                          Number       Percent
Survey of U.S. Adults                Telephone numbers in original sample                                   2,570
                                     Nonhouseholds (e.g., businesses, nonworking telephone
                                     numbers)                                                                 886
                                     Household status unknown (e.g., no answer or busy signal,
                                     and the number was dialed at least 20 times)                             131
                                     Households                                                             1,553          100
                                       Interview completed with randomly selected adult                     1,013           65
                                       Refusal                                                                298           19
                                       Telephone answering machine was reached and at least 25
                                       attempts were made to complete the interview, or the
                                       designated respondent could not be contacted and at least
                                       25 attempts were made to contact the selected adult                    155           10
                                       Physical limitations prevented the interview, such as illness,
                                       lack of hearing, or inability to speak English                          87            6
                                     Source: University of Maryland Survey Research Center.



                                     Results from the survey were adjusted according to (1) the number of
                                     nonbusiness telephone numbers in the household because every telephone
                                     number had an equal probability of selection, so households with more
                                     than one telephone number had a higher chance of inclusion; and
                                     (2) household size because only one adult was selected from among all
                                     adults in the household. Results from the survey were also adjusted to
                                     match the characteristics of all adults in the general public according to
                                     demographic characteristics that included sex, age, education, race, and
                                     region. In reporting percentages for each survey question, we excluded the




                                     Page 39                                       GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




small number of adults (4 to 15 adults out of 1,013 in the survey) who did
not give an answer to that particular question.

Because the survey used random sampling, the results are subject to some
uncertainty, or sampling error. The overall results were surrounded by
95 percent confidence intervals of plus or minus 4 percent or less. Results
for subgroups had larger sampling errors. For results given in this report,
sampling errors were less than plus or minus 7 percent for subgroups with
different levels of education, less than plus or minus 8 percent for those
with locked mailboxes, and less than plus or minus 4 percent for those
with mailboxes without locks.

The practical difficulties of conducting any survey may introduce
nonsampling errors. As in any survey, differences in the wording of
questions, in the sources of information that are available to respondents,
or in the types of people who do not respond can lead to somewhat
different results. Therefore, we obtained comments on the questionnaire
from Postal Service officials and made minor changes to address their
comments. We also took steps to minimize the nonsampling errors. For
example, we pretested our survey questions, and the University of
Maryland Survey Research Center also conducted pretesting.

Several actions by the University of Maryland Survey Research Center also
helped to maximize the response rate, including (1) making at least 20
attempts to contact each sampled household; (2) training interviewers
how to conduct the interview, avoid refusals, and persuade potential
respondents to participate; and (3) recontacting households that initially
refused to participate. The latter resulted in completed interviews with
45 percent of those recontacted. A supervisor monitored interviewing in
the centralized location where interviewing was conducted. In addition,
we used a second analyst to double-check our computer analyses.

To obtain the views of key stakeholders toward the mailbox restriction,
we used a one-page questionnaire that asked structured questions about
the mailbox restriction and mailbox access. We selected 59 domestic
organizations to receive the questionnaire, including the Postal Service,
the U.S. Department of Justice, 7 major postal labor unions and
management associations, an association representing contractors who
transport and deliver U.S. mail, 5 national expedited mail and parcel
delivery firms, an association representing expedited mail and parcel
delivery firms, 14 alternate delivery firms and alliances, 28 mailer groups




Page 40                              GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




and mailers, and the Postal Rate Commission. Our basis for selecting these
organizations is described below.

We selected (1) the Postal Service because it is the current beneficiary of
the mailbox restriction; (2) the U.S. Department of Justice because it has
enforcement responsibilities for federal laws, including postal laws
covering mail theft, obstruction of mail, and mail fraud; and federal laws
related to the distribution of pornography and mailings of sexually explicit
materials, including such mail sent to mailboxes; (3) the Postal Rate
Commission because it is the independent body with responsibilities in the
postal ratesetting process; (4) the seven major postal labor unions and
management associations and an association that represents contractors
who transport and deliver U.S. mail, because they represent postal
employees and contractors who could be affected by changes to the
mailbox restriction; and (5) the five national expedited mail and parcel
delivery firms that the Service had previously identified as its principal
competitors and an association that represents expedited parcel delivery
firms.

In addition, we selected 14 alternate delivery firms and alliances that are
members of an industry that competes with the Service for delivery of
some materials, such as unaddressed advertising. We judgmentally
selected these organizations to ensure a broad range of company sizes,
geographic locations, companies in areas with different population levels,
and both newspaper-owned firms and other firms. We also judgmentally
selected 28 mailer groups and mailers to obtain the views of (1) mailing
industry trade associations and mailers that represent those who send
significant volumes of mail; and (2) mailer groups and mailers in the credit
card, financial, and insurance industries.

We faxed the vast majority of the questionnaires on various dates in
October and November 1996, with follow-ups primarily in January 1997.
We received a total of 41 written responses to the questionnaires, which
form the basis for discussion in this report. Respondents included the
Postal Service, the 7 major postal labor unions and management
associations, an association representing contractors who deliver and
transport U.S. mail, 17 mailer groups and mailers, 4 national expedited
mail and parcel delivery firms, 9 alternate delivery firms and alliances, the
Justice Department, and the Postal Rate Commission. Results based on
responses from national expedited mail and parcel delivery firms,
alternate delivery firms and alliances, and mailer groups and mailers are
not generalizable to all such organizations because we did not send



Page 41                              GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




questionnaires to random samples of these groups. Fifteen organizations
did not respond to the initial questionnaire or follow-up, 2 organizations
declined to participate at the time of our initial telephone contact, and 1
organization had apparently gone out of business and could not be
reached. We also interviewed the Acting Deputy Chief, Child Exploitation
and Obscenity Section, Justice Department Criminal Division, to clarify
the Department’s response.

To provide information on the experience of the United States and certain
other countries regarding mail theft and the need for a mailbox restriction,
we obtained information from the U.S. Postal Service and the eight foreign
postal administrations of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, The
Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We
contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is part of the U.S.
Postal Service, because it is responsible for enforcing U.S. postal laws,
including laws against mail theft. The eight foreign postal administrations
were described in a recent Price Waterhouse report40 as among the most
“progressive postal administrations.” Most of the eight have been reformed
in the past 15 years to change their structures and operations and give
them greater freedom from governmental control. We previously testified41
that the postal reform experiences of these countries are relevant to postal
reform in the United States and reported that none of these countries have
laws that give their postal administrations exclusive access to mailboxes.42


At the Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., we interviewed
Postal Inspection Service officials who oversee enforcement of postal
laws, and we reviewed the relevant documents they submitted. Those
officials provided written responses to our questions and detailed
responses in interviews. We did not verify Inspection Service data on
complaints, arrests, convictions, and workhours related to mail theft.

We surveyed the eight foreign postal administrations using an 11-page
questionnaire to obtain various information on mailbox access, mail theft,
enforcement of postal laws, and the types of mailboxes used within these
countries. In September 1996, we hand-delivered the questionnaire to an
Australian government official who visited us regarding a related postal


40
 A Strategic Review of Progressive Postal Administrations: Competition, Commercialization, and
Deregulation (Price Waterhouse LLP, February 1995).
41
  GAO/T-GGD-96-60.
42
  GAO/GGD-96-129A/B.



Page 42                                         GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




reform issue at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. In October 1996, we
faxed the questionnaire to the remaining seven foreign postal
administrations.

We received written responses from all eight foreign postal
administrations between October 1996 and January 1997. Seven responses
were supplemented by clarifications provided in telephone interviews or
in written answers to follow-up questions.

Our discussion in this report on mailbox security is primarily based on
information provided by the Postal Inspection Service and the eight
foreign postal administrations. We did not independently verify this
information, evaluate the effectiveness of open access to foreign
mailboxes, or reach an independent judgment on whether or not theft of
mail from mailboxes is a problem in the United States or the eight foreign
countries.

We requested comments on a draft of this report from the Postmaster
General. The Postal Service’s comments are summarized in this report and
reprinted in appendix V. Service officials also provided written and oral
technical comments to clarify and correct some of the information in the
draft report. We incorporated these comments into the report where
appropriate.

We also arranged for the eight foreign postal administrations to review
relevant sections of the draft report. We incorporated their technical
comments to improve the accuracy of the report where appropriate.

We did our audit work in Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas, from June
1996 through February 1997 in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards.




Page 43                              GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II

Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




              Page 44       GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 45                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 46                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 47                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 48                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 49                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix II
Questionnaire for GAO National Survey on
the Mailbox Restriction and Overall
Responses




Page 50                                    GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix III

Questionnaire Sent to Selected Domestic
Organizations on the Mailbox Restriction




                                                   UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
                                                      SURVEY CONCERNING MAILB OX ACCESS

               Introduction: The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), an independent agency of Congress, is conducting a
               survey of private carriers, mailers, mailer organizations and other interested parties regarding access to mailboxes in
               the United States. Current law at 18 U.S.C. 1725 prohibits anyone from placing mailable matter without postage
               into any mailbox and effectively gives the U.S. Postal Service exclusive access to mailboxes. Please complete this
               survey and fax it to Mr. Gary Tutt, GAO, Dallas, TX, at 214-777-5758. Feel free to use a separate sheet for your
               responses. If you have any questions, please telephone Mr. Tutt at 214-777-5724.

               Questions:

               1.      To whom should we direct follow-up questions             3.   If your company/organization supports modifying
                       regarding the response to this survey?                        or repealing 18 U.S.C. 1725, should the following
                                                                                     be allowed to place mailable matter without postage
                                                                                     into private mailboxes?
                    Organization/                                                    (Check yes or no for each line.)
                    Company:
                                                                                     a.     Yes     No Private express mail companies
                    Name:
                                                                                     b.     Yes      No Gas, electric, water companies
                    Title:
                                                                                     c.     Yes     No Distributors of catalogs,
                    Address:
                                                                                                       coupons, and advertisements
                                                                                     d.     Yes      No Distributors of newspapers and
                                                                                                        magazines
                    Phone:          (      )          -                              e.     Yes     No Private individuals
                    Fax:            (      )          -
                                                                                4.   If your company/organization supports modifying
                                                                                     or repealing 18 U.S.C. 1725, please describe any
                                                                                     limitations or requirements you believe should be
                                                                                     placed on those who deposit matter into mailboxes.
               2.      Does your company/organization support keeping,
                       modifying, or repealing 18 U.S.C. 1725?
                       (Check one answer and explain..)

                       a.      Keep current law.
                       b.      Modify current law.
                       c.      Repeal current law.
                                                                                5.   Please give us any other comments you have on the
                       Explanation:                                                  matter of mailbox access.




                                    Page 51                                               GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix IV

Domestic Organizations Selected to Receive
GAO Questionnaires on Mailbox Access

               U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C. (*)

               Postal Labor Unions, Management Associations, and Contractors’
               Association

               American Postal Workers Union, Washington, D.C. (*)
               National Association of Letter Carriers, Washington, D.C. (*)
               National Association of Postal Supervisors, Alexandria, VA (*)
               National Association of Postmasters of the United States,
                 Alexandria, VA (*)
               National League of Postmasters, Alexandria, VA (*)
               National Postal Mail Handlers Union, Washington, D.C. (*)
               National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, Alexandria, VA (*)
               National Star Route Mail and Contractors’ Association,
                 Washington, D.C. (*)

               U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. (*)

               Postal Rate Commission, Washington, D.C. (*)

               Postal Service Competitors

               National Expedited Mail and Parcel Delivery Firms

               Airborne Express, Seattle, WA (*)
               Caliber System, Inc., holding company for RPS, Arlington, VA (*)
               DHL Worldwide Express, Redwood City, CA (*)
               Federal Express Corporation, Memphis, TN (*)
               United Parcel Service, Atlanta, GA

               Association Representing Expedited Mail and Parcel Delivery Firms

               Air Courier Conference of America, Washington, D.C.

               Alternate Delivery Firms

               A&A Distribution, Inc., San Jose, CA
               AdPost Northwest, Inc., Seattle, WA (*)
               Advertisers Postal Service, Gaylord, MI
               Alternate Postal Delivery, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI (*)
               Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Atlanta, GA
               Distribution Systems of America/Newsday, Hicksville, NY (*)



               Page 52                             GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix IV
Domestic Organizations Selected to Receive
GAO Questionnaires on Mailbox Access




Dow Jones and Company, Inc., Princeton, NJ (*)
H&H Advertising, Fort Worth, TX
The Houston Chronicle, Houston, TX (*)
Maxx Mail, Ltd., New York, NY (*)
Nationwide Alternate Delivery Alliance, Washington, D.C. (*)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA
R-J ADservices, Las Vegas, NV (*)
Times Distribution, Inc., Seatac, WA (*)

Mailer Groups and Mailers

Advertising Mail Marketing Association, Washington, D.C. (*)
ADVO, Windsor, CT
Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, D.C. (*)
American Bankers Association, Washington, D.C. (*)
American Council of Life Insurance, Washington, D.C.
American Express Company, Washington, D.C. (*)
American Insurance Association, Washington, D.C. (*)
Association of American Publishers, Washington, D.C.
Association of Priority Mail Users, McLean, VA
Direct Marketing Association, Washington, D.C. (*)
Envelope Manufacturers Association, Alexandria, VA (*)
Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, D.C.
Magazine Publishers of America, Washington, D.C. (*)
Mail Advertising Service Association, Alexandria, VA (*)
Mail Order Association of America, Washington, D.C.
Major Mailers Association, El Dorado Hills, CA
MasterCard International, Purchase, NY
Merrill Lynch, Piscataway, NJ (*)
National Association of Advertising Distributors, Centreville, VA (*)
National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Washington, D.C.
National Association of Presort Mailers, Brandon, FL (*)
National Federation of Nonprofits, Washington, D.C. (*)
National Newspaper Association, Arlington, VA (*)
National Postal Policy Council, Arlington, VA
Newspaper Association of America, Washington, D.C. (*)
Parcel Shippers Association, Washington, D.C. (*)
Sears, Roebuck and Company, Hoffman Estates, IL (*)
VISA USA, Inc., Foster City, CA

Note: Respondents are indicated with an asterisk (*).




Page 53                                      GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix V

Comments From the U.S. Postal Service




              Page 54       GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix V
Comments From the U.S. Postal Service




Page 55                                 GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
Appendix VI

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Gerald P. Barnes, Assistant Director
General Government      James T. Campbell, Assistant Director (retired)
Division, Washington,   Kenneth E. John, Senior Social Science Analyst
D.C.                    Stuart Kaufman, Survey Specialist
                        George H. Quinn, Jr., Computer Specialist
                        James M. Fields, Senior Social Science Analyst
                        Martin de Alteriis, Senior Social Science Analyst
                        Katherine M. Wheeler, Publishing Advisor


                        Jill P. Sayre, Senior Attorney
Office of the General
Counsel, Washington,
D.C.
                        Sherrill Johnson, Core Group Manager
Dallas Field Office     Louis G. Tutt, Senior Evaluator




(240213)                Page 56                              GAO/GGD-97-85 Restrictions on Mailbox Access
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