B-4397, JULY 31, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 123

B-4397: Jul 31, 1939

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MAY NOT BE REFUNDED WHERE THE MAIL MATTER INVOLVED IS WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH AT THE MAILING POST OFFICE. AS FOLLOWS: FROM TIME TO TIME REQUESTS ARE RECEIVED IN THE DEPARTMENT FOR REFUNDS OF REGISTRY. WHICH IS BASED UPON 39 U.S.C. 300. PROVIDES FOR THE RETURN OF POSTAGE ON MAIL MATTER FOR WHICH SERVICE IS NOT RENDERED. THE MAILERS BELIEVE THAT A SIMILAR RULE SHOULD OBTAIN WITH RESPECT TO SUCH FEES WHEN NO SERVICE IS PERFORMED BY THE GOVERNMENT. OR DAMAGE WHICH MIGHT OCCUR BETWEEN THE TIME MAILING RECEIPTS ARE ISSUED AND THE TIME WHEN THE ARTICLES ARE ACTUALLY WITHDRAWN. CASES ARISE WHERE REGISTERED ARTICLES CONTAINING MATTER OF NO INTRINSIC VALUE AND FOR WHICH NO INDEMNITY LIABILITY WAS ASSUMED BY THE POSTAL SERVICE ARE WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH AND THE SENDERS HAVE REQUESTED A REFUND OF POSTAGE.

B-4397, JULY 31, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 123

POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT - MAILS - REGISTRY, INSURANCE, ETC., FEES - REFUNDS WHERE MAIL MATTER WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH REGISTRY, INSURANCE, C.O.D., AND RETURN-RECEIPT FEES, AND FEES PAID FOR THE PURPOSE OF RESTRICTING THE DELIVERY OF REGISTERED OR INSURED MAIL TO THE ADDRESSEE OR HIS ORDER, MAY NOT BE REFUNDED WHERE THE MAIL MATTER INVOLVED IS WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH AT THE MAILING POST OFFICE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL BROWN TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, JULY 31, 1939:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED YOUR LETTER DATED JUNE 16, 1939, AS FOLLOWS:

FROM TIME TO TIME REQUESTS ARE RECEIVED IN THE DEPARTMENT FOR REFUNDS OF REGISTRY, INSURANCE, OR C.O.D. FEES PAID ON MAIL MATTER WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH AT THE MAILING OFFICE. SECTION 584 OF THE POSTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS, WHICH IS BASED UPON 39 U.S.C. 300, PROVIDES FOR THE RETURN OF POSTAGE ON MAIL MATTER FOR WHICH SERVICE IS NOT RENDERED. IN FILING CLAIMS FOR THE RETURN OF REGISTRY, INSURANCE, OR C.O.D. FEES, THE MAILERS BELIEVE THAT A SIMILAR RULE SHOULD OBTAIN WITH RESPECT TO SUCH FEES WHEN NO SERVICE IS PERFORMED BY THE GOVERNMENT. THE DEPARTMENT HAS TAKEN THE POSITION THAT WHERE ARTICLES PRESENTED FOR MAILING CONTAIN MATTER OF INTRINSIC VALUE THESE FEES SHOULD NOT BE REFUNDED INASMUCH AS THE POSTAL SERVICE HAS INCURRED A LIABILITY FOR LOSS, RIFLING, OR DAMAGE WHICH MIGHT OCCUR BETWEEN THE TIME MAILING RECEIPTS ARE ISSUED AND THE TIME WHEN THE ARTICLES ARE ACTUALLY WITHDRAWN. HOWEVER, CASES ARISE WHERE REGISTERED ARTICLES CONTAINING MATTER OF NO INTRINSIC VALUE AND FOR WHICH NO INDEMNITY LIABILITY WAS ASSUMED BY THE POSTAL SERVICE ARE WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH AND THE SENDERS HAVE REQUESTED A REFUND OF POSTAGE, REGISTRY FEES, AND RETURN-RECEIPT FEES.

AS A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO THE APPLICATION OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, MADISON, WISCONSIN, FOR A REFUND OF THE POSTAGE, REGISTRY FEES, AND RETURN RECEIPT FEES EXPENDED IN THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF $38.64 ON 184 LETTERS, CONTAINING NOTICES OF CANCELLATION OF INSURANCE POLICIES WHICH WERE PRESENTED FOR REGISTRATION ON NOVEMBER 9, 1938, BUT WERE WITHDRAWN WITHIN A FEW MINUTES AND BEFORE THE ARTICLES HAD BEEN PREPARED FOR DISPATCH. THE REGISTRATION NUMBERS HAD BEEN ENTERED ON THE ENVELOPES AND THE ARTICLES LISTED ON FIRM MAILING SHEETS BY THE SENDER, BUT THE RETURN RECEIPTS HAD NOT BEEN PREPARED, NOR HAD ALL OF THE ENVELOPES BEEN POSTMARKED BY POSTAL EMPLOYEES AT THE TIME THE ARTICLES WERE WITHDRAWN.

SINCE THE CONTENTS OF THE ABOVE-MENTIONED ARTICLES WERE OF NO VALUE AND SINCE NO INDEMNITY LIABILITY ATTACHED THERETO, A DECISION IS REQUESTED WHETHER IT WOULD NOT BE PROPER TO REFUND THE REGISTRY FEES AND RETURN RECEIPT FEES, AS WELL AS THE POSTAGE, ON THESE ARTICLES. IT IS FURTHER REQUESTED THAT YOU ADVISE WHETHER RETURN RECEIPT FEES MAY BE REFUNDED IN CASES WHERE THE REGISTERED OR INSURED ARTICLES ARE WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH EVEN THOUGH THE ARTICLE FOR WHICH THE RETURN RECEIPT WAS REQUESTED CONTAINS MATTER OF VALUE.

IT IS LIKEWISE REQUESTED THAT YOU ADVISE WHETHER A REFUND CAN BE MADE OF A FEE PAID BY A SENDER FOR THE PURPOSE OF RESTRICTING THE DELIVERY OF REGISTERED OR INSURED MAIL TO THE ADDRESSEE OR HIS ORDER IN CASES WHERE THE ARTICLE IS WITHDRAWN BEFORE DISPATCH.

THE AUTHORITY FOR REFUNDING "POSTAGE" IS FOUND IN SECTION 2, ACT OF MARCH 3, 1905, 33 STAT. 1091 (39 U.S.C.A. 300), WHICH IS AS FOLLOWS:

THAT HEREAFTER, WHENEVER IT SHALL BE SHOWN TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE POSTMASTER GENERAL THAT ANY POSTAGE IS PAID ON ANY MAIL MATTER FOR WHICH SERVICE IS NOT RENDERED, OR IS COLLECTED IN EXCESS OF THE LAWFUL RATE, HE MAY, IN HIS DISCRETION, AUTHORIZE THE POSTMASTER AT THE OFFICE WHERE PAID TO REFUND THE PROPER AMOUNT OUT OF THE POSTAL RECEIPTS IN THE POSSESSION OF THE POSTMASTER: PROVIDED, THAT THIS PROVISION SHALL APPLY TO ALL APPLICATIONS FOR SUCH REFUNDS PENDING IN THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT AT THE TIME OF THE PASSAGE OF THIS ACT.

THE RECORDS OF THIS OFFICE SHOW THAT QUESTIONS SIMILAR TO THAT YOU NOW PRESENT HERETOFORE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED BY FORMER COMPTROLLERS OF THE TREASURY. PRIOR TO THE ENACTMENT OF THE ABOVE QUOTED STATUTE, COMPTROLLER TRACEWELL, IN A DECISION DATED SEPTEMBER 19, 1904, 11 COMP. DEC. 146, STATED:

I AM NOT AWARE OF ANY PROVISION OF LAW WHICH AUTHORIZES THE REFUNDMENT OF POSTAGE PAID IN EXCESS, OR OF ANY APPROPRIATION PROVIDING FOR SUCH REFUNDMENT, AND I DO NOT THINK SUCH REFUNDMENT CAN PROPERLY BE PAID OUT OF POSTAL REVENUES WITHOUT SPECIFIC PROVISION THEREFOR.

HOWEVER, BY DECISION OF MAY 8, 1905, 11 COMP. DEC. 672, COMPTROLLER TRACEWELL HELD THERE WAS THEN AUTHORITY TO REFUND THE POSTAGE ERRONEOUSLY AND ILLEGALLY COLLECTED IN A CASE PENDING AT THE TIME OF THE PASSAGE OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1905, SUPRA, AND IN A DECISION BY COMPTROLLER DOWNEY DATED FEBRUARY 20, 1914, 20 COMP. DEC. 571, IT WAS HELD WITH RESPECT TO THE REFUNDING OF REGISTRY INSURANCE AND C.O.D. FEES, AS FOLLOWS:

THE REFUNDMENT OF THE POSTAGE UNDER THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1905, IS ANALOGOUS TO THAT MADE BY A COMMON CARRIER FOR GOODS LOST IN TRANSIT WHEN IT REFUNDS PREPAID FREIGHT OR EXPRESS CHARGES, NOT AS A PART OF THE VALUE OF THE GOODS LOST, BUT AS UNEARNED FREIGHT, FOR SERVICE NOT PERFORMED.

THE INSURANCE AND OTHER FEES IN QUESTION CANNOT, HOWEVER, BE REFUNDED AS A PART OF THE VALUE OF THE GOODS AS INDEMNITY, OR OTHERWISE, BECAUSE THEY REPRESENT THE GOVERNMENT'S CHARGE FOR ASSUMING THE LIABILITY TO PAY INSURANCE UPON THE GOODS IN THE EVENT OF ITS FAILURE TO DELIVER THEM, A LIABILITY WHICH WOULD NOT OTHERWISE EXIST AS AN ENFORCEABLE CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT.

SIMILARLY, REGISTRY, INSURANCE, AND C.O.D. FEES PAID ON MAIL MATTER OF INTRINSIC VALUE, OR OF NO INTRINSIC VALUE, WHICH IS WITHDRAWN BY SENDERS BEFORE DISPATCH AT THE MAILING OFFICES, AND FEES PAID BY A SENDER FOR THE PURPOSE OF RESTRICTING THE DELIVERY OF REGISTERED OR INSURED MAIL TO THE ADDRESSEE OR HIS ORDER, BEING THE FEES PAID IN ADDITION TO "REGULAR POSTAGE" ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE REFUNDED UNDER THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1905, SUPRA.

WITH RESPECT TO FEES FOR RETURN RECEIPTS, PRESCRIBED BY THE ACT OF JUNE 28, 1932, 47 STAT. 340, IT IS PROVIDED:

THAT NO REFUND SHALL BE MADE OF FEES PAID FOR RETURN RECEIPTS FOR REGISTERED OR INSURED MAIL WHERE THE FAILURE TO FURNISH THE SENDER A RETURN RECEIPT OR THE EQUIVALENT IS NOT DUE TO THE FAULT OF THE POSTAL SERVICE. ( ITALICS SUPPLIED.)

ALSO, UNDER THE ACT OF JUNE 18, 1934, 48 STAT. 992, THE POSTMASTER GENERAL IS AUTHORIZED TO CHARGE AN ADDITIONAL FEE OF 10 CENTS FOR EFFECTING DELIVERY OF DOMESTIC REGISTERED, INSURED, OR COLLECT-ON DELIVERY MAIL, THE DELIVERY OF WHICH IS RESTRICTED TO THE ADDRESSEE ONLY, OR TO THE ADDRESSEE OR ORDER, BUT THE ACT FURTHER PROVIDES:

THAT NO REFUND SHALL BE MADE OF FEES PAID FOR THIS SERVICE UNLESS REQUEST FOR REFUND IS MADE AND ERRONEOUS DELIVERY OF THE ARTICLE OR ARTICLES WAS MADE BY THE POSTAL SERVICE OR NONDELIVERY OF THE ARTICLE OR ARTICLES WAS DUE TO SOME FAULT OF THE POSTAL SERVICE. ( ITALICS SUPPLIED.)

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING LAWS, REGULATIONS AND DECISIONS, AND THE FURTHER FACT THAT NO SPECIFIC APPROPRIATION HAS BEEN MADE FOR THE REFUND OF THE FEES SUCH AS REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER, IT MUST BE HELD, IN SPECIFIC ANSWER TO THE QUESTION YOU SUBMIT, THAT THE REFUND OF SUCH FEES IS NOT AUTHORIZED.