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Section: 553-5
Effective: 1/10/97
Supersedes: 1/1/93
Issuing Office: Mail Services

PPM 553-5 [PDF Format]


    The following current regulations apply to the use of Business Reply Mail. For more detailed information, call Mail Services, x-41164.

    1. Description

      Business Reply Mail (BRM) and Qualified Business Reply Mail (QBRM) enables mailers to receive First-Class Mail back from customers by paying postage only on the mail that is returned to them from their original distribution of BRM or QBRM pieces. The department guarantees payment of the appropriate First-Class postage plus a handling charge per piece on all returned BRM or QBRM mail pieces. QBRM provides an automated method of processing and rating BRM by the U.S. Postal Service. To qualify for QBRM, all regulations must be followed as outlined in this PPM section. Usage of QBRM qualifies for a reduced fee.

    2. Special Services

      Special services (e.g. insurance, registration, certified, C.O.D., return receipts) cannot be used with BRM.

    3. Availability

      Domestic mail only; not for Canada, Mexico, or other foreign countries.

    4. Dimensions

      (In Inches)
      Cards Envelopes
      Dimension Minimum Maximum Minimum *Maximum
      Height 3 1/2 4 1/4 3 1/2 6 1/8
      Length 5 6 5 11 1/2
      Thickness .007 .0095 .007 .25
      Aspect Ratio (Length divided by height) 1.3 to 2.5
      Envelopes and cards must be able to withstand the forces encountered during processing by high speed letter sorting machines. Since it is difficult to define specific characteristics in terms of weight, stiffness, etc. thin and/or flimsy mail pieces should be evaluated by a local post office to assure machinability.

      *Note: Surcharges apply if standard sizes are not used. No maximum size although for nonstandard letters, a surcharge is applicable if the mail piece weighs under one ounce and it is larger than 6 1/8" x 11 1/2" (template dimensions). Also see ``Aspect Ratio'' above.

      Contact Graphics for pre-arranged sized mail that has already been laid out for printing.

    5. Ink and Paper Reflectance

      1. Background Contrast

        A print reflectance difference (envelope reflectance minus print reflectance) of at least .3 (30% percent) is required between the background material of the mailpiece and the barcode when measured in the red portion of the spectrum at 650 nanometers.

      2. Printing Irregularities

        Attached extraneous ink (connected to a bar) must not cause any bar to exceed the maximum height or width dimensions. Detached extraneous ink (not connected to any bar or bars) in the barcode read area must not exceed .003 inch in any dimension or cause the space-to-background print reflctance difference to exceed 10 percent. Individual bars must not contain ink voids which reduce bar width to less than .01 inch or remove more than .01 inch along the bar height.

    6. Envelopes

    7. Paper envelopes used for Business Reply Mail must have a minimum base weight of 20 pounds (17" x 22", 500 sheet base). Nonpaper envelopes must be approved for mailability by the USPS Engineering Support Center, Rockville, Maryland 20852-8101.

      If the Business Reply Mail envelope is made of paper with dark fibers, the print reflectance difference (PRD) between the fibers and the background should not exceed 10%.

      Envelope paper must not have phosphorescence exceeding 3.0 phosphory meter units (PMU) to avoid orientation problems in the facer canceller. Envelopes must have at least a 40% reflectance value.

      Half tone screening of less than 200 dots per inch must not be used in the background of the address area of the envelope as they cause OCR interference.

      Business Reply Mail envelopes are nonmailable when sealed with wax, clasps, string, staples, or buttons, or when all edges are not straight or when the envelopes are not rectangular.

    8. Self-Mailers

    9. Business Reply Mail self-mailers must be rectangular, at least 0.007" thick, and contain instructions for folding and sealing. Self-mailers are nonmailable when sealed with wax, clasps, string, staples, or buttons, and when they do not have straight sides.

    10. Before Use

    11. Prior to printing, please send Mail Services four copies of the BLUELINE PRELIMINARY artwork for each BRM. This will be forwarded to the U.S. Postal Service for final verification and approval (allow one week for approval). The name of an office contact, phone extension, recharge number, and a current date must be written on the back of the mail piece sample.

      1. Annual Update

      2. An annual update of all Business Reply Mailing envelopes and cards is conducted each summer. Please respond to the questionnaire distributed to departments currently using Business Reply Mailing to verify proper format, usage, recharge number and department contact phone number.


  3. In order to use Business Reply Mailing, departments must adhere to the following requirements:

    1. Format and Review

    2. An illustration of the acceptable Business Reply Mailing format is shown in Figure 2. FIM negatives are available from Graphics & Reporduction Services. Spacing is critical. Postal inspection of Business Reply Mail BRM before printing is mandatory, and will prevent the cost of reprinting and distributing in the event of a non-mailable ruling. The departments are responsible for correcting the BRM format and ensuring that future formats meet specifications.

    3. Address Format (Refer to Figure 2)

    4. The following format must be used in preparing Business Reply Mailing pieces:

      261 The permit number
      University of California, San Diego Top line is the permit holder
      Department and Mail Code 2nd line for department and code
      3300 Miramar Road 3rd line for delivery address*
      La Jolla, CA 92037-9986 (1 oz letter) 4th line, NOT 92093 NOR ZIP+4 Code)
      La Jolla, CA 92037-9747 (2 oz letter)
      La Jolla, CA 92037-9746 (card)

      *No nonaddress printing or marks of any kind should appear on or below the delivery address line.

      The bottom line of the address must be no lower than 5/8" nor higher than 2 1/4" from the bottom edge of the mail piece. The space 5/8" from the bottom edge and 4 1/2" from the right edge of the mail piece is reserved for bar codes. A clear margin void of any extraneous matter of at least 1" is required between the left and right edges of the mail piece and the address.

      There must be at least 1/2" clearance between the ZIP Code and the horizontal bars.

      A company logo is permitted if it is located no lower than the top of the street address or the post office box line. The logo must not interfere with any of the required business reply endorsements.

      The upper left corner of the address side is available for permit holder use and the recharge number. See Figure 2.

    5. On or Below the Delivery Address Line

    6. No nonaddress printing or marks of any kind should appear on or below the delivery address line. This includes attention lines, account numbers, tic marks, underlines, boxes, computer punch holes, prompting words, form lines, form or envelope numbers, department names, endorsements such as ``please respond immediately'', colored borders, or similar nonaddress information.

      If such information must be part of the address block, it should be put on the line directly above or below the department line. Otherwise, it should be relocated to the upper left corner (this area is better to use), not designated as a clear area. This area is bordered on the right by the FIM area and the legend ``BUSINESS REPLY MAIL'' and is above the address. It may contain the return address, logos, distributor codes, strad marks, etc. See Figure 2.

    7. Format Elements

      1. "No Postage Necessary ***"; Endorsement

      2. The endorsement NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES should be printed in the upper right hand corner of the face of the piece. The endorsement must not extend further than 1 3/4" from the right edge of the mail piece.

      3. Business Reply Legend

      4. The appropriate BUSINESS REPLY MAIL legend should appear above the address in capital letters at least 3/16" in height.

      5. Permit Number

        Immediately below the BUSINESS REPLY legend the words "FIRST-CLASS MAIL PERMIT NO. 261 LA JOLLA CA" should be shown in capital letters.

      6. "Postage Will Be Paid" Endorsement

      7. The legend "POSTAGE WILL BE PAID BY ADDRESSEE" should appear below the "FIRST-CLASS MAIL PERMIT . . . ".

    8. Recharge Numbers

    9. The recharge number should be printed in the upper left corner of the Business Reply Mail piece. This number will be charged on all returned pieces. See Figure 2.

    10. Bar-Codes

      1. Top - Facing Identification Mark (FIM) (Figure 1)

      2. FIM is a vertical barcode pattern printed at the top right portion of the address side of the BRM piece. FIM functions as an orientation mark for automatic facing and canceling equipment. Requirements for FIM are as follows:

        1. The horizontal distance from the right-most bar to the right edge of the mail piece must be 2 inches, plus or minus 1/8 of an inch.

        2. The width of each bar should be at least .03125 of an inch +- .008 inch wide). Enlarging or reducing may affect readability by automated mail processing equipment.

        3. Extraneous ink must not cause a bar to exceed the width limits specified above.

        4. The length of each bar must be at least 5/8 of an inch (+- 1/8 inch).

        5. The vertical distance from the top of each bar to the upper edge of the mail piece must not exceed 1/8 of an inch. The top edge of the FIM pattern may touch the top edge of the mail piece.

        6. A clear zone must be provided which contains no printing other than the FIM pattern. Clear zone boundaries are illustrated in Figure 2.

        7. Skew and baseline shift. The combined effects of positional and rotational skew (slant) of the barcode must be limited to a maximum rotation of the bars of +- 5 degrees from a perpendicular to the bottom edge of the mailpiece. The bottom of any bar must not be more than .005 inch from the bottom of each adjacent bar.

        Business Reply Mail is nonmailable when the FIM has insufficient ink coverage, improper measurement, ink in the space between the bars, or is either enlarged or reduced.

      3. Horizontal Bars (Figure 2)

      4. To facilitate rapid recognition of BRM, a series of horizontal bars parallel to the length of the mail piece must be printed immediately below the endorsement "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES."

        1. Bars must begin immediately below the endorsement, and must extend below the delivery address line ("3300 Miramar Rd.").

        2. The bars must be uniform in length, at least 1" long and 1/16" to 3/16" thick and evenly spaced.

        3. There must be at least 1/2 inch clearance between the ZIP+4 and the horizontal bars.

        4. A 5/8" space must be left between the bottom horizontal bar and the bottom edge of the mail piece.

        NOTE: Nonaddress printing or marks (including barcodes) should not appear on or below the delivery address line ("3300 Miramar Rd.").

      5. ZIP+4 Barcodes (Figure 3)

      6. Barcoding permits highly reliable sortation of mail through automated barcode sorters instead of manual or mechanized methods.

        1. Official Format

        2. Only the official U.S. Postal Service ZIP+4 barcode may be printed, and it must be printed actual size. All letters and numerals used for identification on the bar code negative/positive should not be printed.

        3. Barcode Read Area

        4. A clear zone must be left along the bottom portion of the envelope or card, extending 4 1/2 inches from the right edge, and 5/8 of an inch high when measured from the bottom edge of the mail piece. This restricted area must not contain any printed patterns or symbols. It is reserved solely for the ZIP+4 barcode, which must be positioned within the clear zone as shown in Figure 3.

        5. Tolerances

        6. To ensure barcode reading accuracy, the barcode on the printed envelope or card must be within these tolerances:

          Height A tall bar must be 0.125 +-0.01 inch
          A short bar must be 0.050 +-0.01 inch
          Width 0.020 inch +- 0.005 inch wide
          Spacing 21 +- 1 bars per inch
          Pitch A bar and a space 0.045 inch minimum, 0.050 inch
          Skew A variation of +-5 degrees from the horizontal

        7. Location

        8. The location of the code and the tolerances have been chosen so that the code will be centered in a reading area and have the greatest likelihood of being read. The baseline of the code should be 1/4"+- 1/16" from the bottom edge of the envelope. The start (left-most bar) position must be 4" (+0", -1/8") from the right hand edge of the mail piece.

        9. Over Inking

        10. Extraneous inking must not cause the bar to exceed the recommended height and width limits. Detached extraneous ink should not exceed 0.003 of an inch in any dimension. Any voids within the printed bar should not remove more than 0.010 of an inch along the height of the bar.