Pricing 'Competitive' Postal Products

17 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2019

See all articles by Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan

University of Maryland, Baltimore County - Department of Public Policy; Resources for the Future

Date Written: June 18, 2019


The US Postal Service (USPS) provides “market dominant” services on an exclusive ba-sis, e.g., first class mail, and “competitive” services in markets with other rivals, e.g., parcel delivery. Rivals in the competitive market have long complained that USPS underprices if not cross-subsidizes its competitive offerings. I ask what prices of the monopoly and competitive services maximize net economic welfare across the market dominant and competitive service markets. With perfect competition, USPS should charge the market price and use the profits to finance reductions in market dominant service prices. If the regulated firm faces a fringe, Ramsey rules hold based on the elasticity facing that firm, recognizing fringe supply share and elasticity. If the rival offers a differentiated product, we find, fol-lowing Prieger (1996), that the regulated firm’s price in that market should exceed the Ramsey price because the rival sells too little. This price will be the target if pricing in the differentiated competitive market is simultaneous rather than sequential. Application is complicated if USPS, as a publicly-owned enterprise, is not profit-maximizing.

Keywords: Postal pricing, Ramsey pricing, differentiated markets, regulation

JEL Classification: L51, L87, D42

Suggested Citation

Brennan, Tim, Pricing 'Competitive' Postal Products (June 18, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Tim Brennan (Contact Author)

University of Maryland, Baltimore County - Department of Public Policy ( email )

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Resources for the Future ( email )

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