INTERNATIONAL REPLY COUPONS.
Here in the UK for some time we have been trying to find out the long term security of International Reply Coupons. We now have an official answer from Royal Mail about the rumoured phasing out of IRCs:
"Due to declining international mail volumes and electronic substitution, customer demand for International Reply Coupons has been falling dramatically over the last few years. Overall sales of International Reply Coupons have been very low indeed - on average just 4 per annum bought from each Post Office branch. Therefore, it was no longer commercially viable to maintain the sale of coupons and Royal Mail has taken the decision to withdraw them from sale.
International Reply Coupons have not been withdrawn globally from sale. Under UPU regulations Royal Mail through Post Office Counters is obliged to redeem International Reply Coupons presented having been purchased overseas, but we are not obliged to sell them. However, Royal Mail can confirm that customers have up to December 2013 to redeem IRCs."
This seems to be much more in line with the Royal Mail's responsibilities under their UPU membership and it looks like they're safe until 31st December 2013. It may be that the UPU will change their rules after that date!
I will be phasing out acceptance of IRCs during the second half of 2013.
An International Reply Coupon (IRC) is a device by which a person in one member country of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) can prepay the return airmail postage cost of a letter of a specific maximum weight from a different UPU member country. At the time of writing and in theory at least, IRCs are exchangeable in all countries with the exception of Taiwan. UPU member countries may decide not to sell IRCs, (notably the Netherlands and Sweden, amongst others) but their exchange is compulsory in all countries.
On 1st July 2009, a completely new style of IRC went on sale, known as the CN 01 or Nairobi IRC. This new IRC will remain valid until 31st December 2013. Currently, only the 2013 expiry type of IRC will be acceptable by the UK postal authorities and an example is shown below.
The name of the country of origin is printed on these coupons as a matter of course. Also printed on them, amongst other things, is a standardized UPU bar code containing the ISO code of the country and the date of printing. Each country’s postal administration will have the option of printing the selling price on the coupon itself.
IRCs can be bought “new” over the counter of the larger post offices and preferably be hand stamped in the left hand box by the issuing office. This box is marked “Empreinte de contrôle du pays d’origine (facultative)”, which means: “Control stamp of the country of origin (optional)”.
When presented in exchange for postage stamps, the receiving office should legibly date stamp the right hand box. This is a mandatory requirement to validate the IRC. This box is marked “Timbre de bureau qui effectue l’échange”, which means: “Stamp of the office making the exchange”.
Unfortunately, many post office counter clerks in many countries do not know or understand the rules and either stamp the wrong box by mistake at the time of issuing the IRC or fail to stamp any box at all (which is optional anyway). For the same reasons, counter clerks may then refuse to exchange IRCs for postage stamps, particularly if they are unstamped or incorrectly stamped. As a result, it is fair to say that unstamped or incorrectly stamped IRCs may be considered worthless by the DX station.
Consequently, do not expect to receive a direct reply if you use incorrectly stamped IRCs.
Examples of incorrectly stamped IRCs are shown below.
When you buy new IRCs from your local post office, please make a point of asking for them to be properly hand stamped in the left hand box.
Like many other QSL managers, I often have for sale at a modest discount small numbers of correctly stamped and valid “second hand” IRCs. I will mail IRCs to any part of the world. Such “second hand” IRCs circulate widely within the amateur radio community as “ham currency”, without ever being exchanged for postage stamps.
A properly stamped and valid 2013 expiry IRC.
An unstamped and possibly worthless 2013 expiry IRC.
An incorrectly stamped and possibly worthless 2013 expiry IRC.
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