`No licking, no sticking, just clicking'

August 10, 1999

Consumers across the nation with a personal computer, printer and Internet access won't have to make trips to the post office for stamps anymore. Yesterday, the stamps began coming to them.

The U.S. Postal Service and two companies launched "PC postage," a product that allows consumers to print postage from their own home or business.

"This is postage made easy," said Pam Gibert, Postal Service vice president of retail. "There's no licking, no sticking. Just clicking."

By using an inkjet or laser printer, consumers can print out a "stamp" onto labels or upper right-hand corner of an envelope. The stamp is actually a two-dimensional digital bar-coding that shows the postage amount, rate, date and the town and ZIP code of the sender.

The Postal Service has been trying out Internet stamps in test markets since March 1998, using products developed by four private companies. Two of those -- E-Stamp of San Mateo, Calif., and Stamps.com of Santa Monica, Calif. -- were authorized to offer the Internet stamps beginning yesterday.

The other two were postage-meter giant Pitney-Bowes of Stamford, Conn., and Neopost of Hayward, Calif. Both are still market testing their products.

Stamps.com and E-Stamp will offer their services in different formats.

E-Stamp customers will need to buy an "electronic vault," which stores downloaded postage.

Stamps.com consumers will be able to download free software from the company's Web site and open a print account -- but they'll have to do this each time they need postage.

Consumers can pay for either service by credit card, debit card or direct deductions from a checking account. Neither company has a Macintosh-compatible product available yet. The PC postage is only valid in the United States for domestic first-class, priority and express mail and parcels.

Knight Ridder/Tribune

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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