The independent panel that oversees the U.S. Postal Service has denied the agency's request to increase the cost of mailing a letter by 2 cents - to 46 cents.
The Postal Regulatory Commission announced its decision rejecting the requested price hike at a news conference Thursday.
In July, the Postal Service proposed raising first-class postage from 44 cents to 46 cents as part of a strategy for dealing with a worsening financial crisis.
The Postal Service lost $3.8 billion last year, and the agency has been seeking other rate increases as well, including higher fees for periodicals, post cards and parcels.
The new rates would have taken effect next Jan. 2.
Chairman Ruth Goldway told reporters at a news conference that the Postal Rate Commission's vote to deny the rate request was unanimous on the five-member commission.
She said that in her view, the requested rate adjustment was not due to recent recession, as indicated by Postal Service officials, but was, rather, an attempt to address longterm structural problems.
The decision was applauded by the Affordable Mail Alliance, a coalition of postal customers including consumer groups, small business, chairities, utilities, national retailers and banks.
"The PRC today has helped countless businesses stay competitive and saved tens of thousands of jobs," said Tony Conway, a spokesman for the alliance. "The commissioners recognized that imposing an additional tax on Postal Service customers is not the way to address its financial troubles. Our members look forward to working with the Postal Service on the long-term restructuring needed to restore the Postal Service to competitiveness."