March 31, 2017 is the last date that postage meter indicia can be used to pay for parcels being shipped through Canada Post. The intention to make this change was announced by Canada Post in 2016 but has not been something that a lot of casual parcel shippers will have made note of. The implications for those companies with postage meters and who use their meter and scale to weigh and create postage for shipping are significant. The purpose of the changes is to push parcel shippers to use Canada Posts Electronic Shipping Tools (EST) instead of physical meter prints.
Canada Post's manual parcel phase out announcement indicated once that date comes the options are:
- Bring your parcels to any post office and pay by cash, debit or credit card.
- Apply for approval to pay by Canada Post account and select “pay by account” on your manual shipping documents. This option is only for commercial customers with a parcels contract. Solutions for Small Business members are not eligible to pay by account. How to become a commercial customer.
Use your postage equipment vendor
Each of the three postage equipment vendors have developed a system which will support their customers by linking into the Canada Post Rate site and permit their clients to get the appropriate rates for their parcel shipments. For example, the benefits of using this system are spelled out by one vendor (Francotyp-Postalia, FP).
- Calculates the right value, based on dimensions, weight and destination and options. This is done by a CPC (Canada Post Corp) Web Service.
- It allows shipments for registered customers
- Prints the shipping label with bar code
- Manages cost accounts for shipping transactions
- Offers connectivity to customer’s data file for printing address on shipping label (saves inputting address on the label)
- It’s down loadable over the internet
- Bar scanner capable
- Gives the customer the opportunity to access all discount levels based on volume usage
- …Interface PC S/W to FP excel scale to verify weight and communicate to CPC web service for rate calculation
What the mailing equipment vendor is providing through the new software and account based service includes managing the linkages to CPC as well as handling the transaction relationship to the shipper's account:
"When offering a product like MailOne Canada, FP Canada has to
- Set up a new payment channel for shipping
- Handle the whole payment procedure like
o Payments to Canada Post for authorized parcels
o Invoicing for shipped parcels to customers
o Handle the return transactions"
All of the mailing vendors will be establishing their version of these new EST compatible services and you can talk to you vendor to see how they are doing it or contact a vendor to set up an account if you wish to handle parcels. One of the key tools which will assist is a properly setup postage weigh scale (often built into postage meter equipment) that links to the software to be able to provide the CPC rating linkage correct weights.
Depending upon your parcel volume there are special commercial volume rates available which can be linked to your Canada Post Supplier Account . Discounts will reflect volumes and can save costs over taking parcels to the depot for handling. The ability to print the CPC bar coded label in your own office is provided through the software linkages.
One thing to watch on your postage meter invoices in the coming months is the potential for new admin charges related to the new parcel system. There are costs associated with setting something like this up and the vendors will be seeking ways to cover them. Check your invoices to see what may have changed and talk to your vendor if you have difficulties understanding what has happened.
Since this change to handling parcels takes the need for parcel meter rates to be in the software setup in postage meter machines you can expect a need to update your meter software (method depends on your vendor) in time for April 1 2017. This can lead to rate change charges to be levied depending upon your supplier contract. Check your agreement so you know what to expect.
In order to sign up for the EST services through your postage vendor you will need to create a Canada Post profile and obtain an account number through Canada Post. Your vendor will be able to advise you of the steps to take to set this up so that you can register your postage software and build the proper connections. Once this is done you will be able to print an EST shipping label within your own office. Remember, once you are on this system you will not need to produce postage meter indicia postage for your parcels.
Get ahead of the rush for March 31st and sign up with your postage vendor of choice now and get ready to deal with the new EST parcel system in Canada.