Sears Trips in Million-|Dollar Postage Squabble

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Sears cannot stuff more material into a challenge of more than $1 million in postage fines, a federal judge ruled.
     The dispute stems from three 2011 decisions by the U.S. Postal Service that disqualified Sears, Segerdahl Graphics and Aspen Marketing Services from a lower rate that they were using to ship “oblong folded self-mailers.”
     While USPS rules requiring “such self-mailers to be sealed on the top and bottom edges with glue or adhesive tabs,” the mailers that Sears and the other businesses sent “were sealed only at their corners.”
     The deficiencies have the three companies facing a bill for more than $1.25 million.
     Sears, Segerdahl and Aspen say that the Pricing Center’s decisions were “arbitrary and capricious,” and U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer is presiding over cross-motions for summary judgment
     Collyer on Thursday refused to let the companies supplement the administrative record with three documents in the meantime.
     The documents include correspondence between the parties’ lawyers and the Post Office, as well as a report from the Office of the Inspector General auditing the Post Office’s program requiring companies to update their lists of customer addresses.
     Collyer found that these documents cannot be considered as part of the case since the Post Office did not consult these documents when making the 2011 decisions that Sears and the others are challenging.
     Precedent holds the court should have exactly as much information as an agency had at the time of its decision, Collyer wrote.
     Supplementing the record in an agency dispute such as this requires “unusual circumstances,” according to the opinion.
     Collyer found that Sears and the others have “no factual support” for their claim that the Post Office did consult these documents when making the decisions in question.
     The correspondence between the companies’ counsel and the Post Office certainly was not available to the pricing center at the time of its decision, as the letters concern the center’s decision and are dated after the decision came down, Collyer wrote.
     The OIG report meanwhile was available to the center at the time of its decision, but it was not actually in front of the decisionmaker, preventing it from becoming part of the record, Collyer wrote.
     Sears and the others failed to sway Collyer that USPS intentionally or negligently omitted the “adverse” report from the record.
     “Again, this case concerns a regulation regarding self-folded mailers and the OIG Report concerns the Move Update Program, an entirely different regulation,” Collyer wrote.
     David Matthew Levy, who represents the companies, and Peter Pfaffenroth, who represents the postal service, have not returned requests for comment.

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