WASHINGTON - Mailing a letter is about to get a little more expensive.
Regulators on Tuesday approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first-class stamp, bringing the charge to 49 cents a letter in an effort to help the Postal Service recover from severe mail decreases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.
Many consumers won't feel the price increase immediately. Forever stamps, good for first-class postage whatever the future rate, can be purchased at the lower price until the new rate is effective Jan. 26.
The higher rate will last no more than two years, allowing the Postal Service to recoup $2.8 billion in losses. By a 2-1 vote, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the price hike permanent, though inflation over the next 24 months may make it so.
The surcharge "will last just long enough to recover the loss," Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway said.
Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates will rise 6 percent, a decision that drew immediate consternation from the mail industry. Its groups have opposed any price increase beyond the current 1.7 percent rate of inflation, saying charities using mass mailings and bookstores competing with online retailer Amazon would be among those who suffer. Greeting card companies also have criticized the plans.
"This is a counterproductive decision," said Mary G. Berner, president of the Association of Magazine Media. "It will drive more customers away from using the Postal Service and will have ripple effects through our economy - hurting consumers, forcing layoffs and impacting businesses."
Berner said her organization will consider appealing the decision before the U.S. Court of Appeals.