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What Are Your Rights When Your Parcel Goes Missing?
Tuesday, 5 March 2019 at 10:09
The rise of online shopping has led to an increase in the number of parcel delivery companies. But, crucially, unlike the Royal Mail, these companies are unregulated.
Royal Mail is what's called the 'designated universal service provider'. This means it's subject to strict conditions set down by ofcom, the regulator. These include delivering to every UK address six days week, at affordable and uniform prices. The rules mean Royal Mail is routinely undercut by private parcel delivery and courier firms, which have no such conditions to stick to.
Receiving a parcel
If you order something online, you tend to be stuck with the parcel company the retailer uses. There are plenty for the retailer to choose from including Yodel, Hermes, TNT, DHL and Parcelforce.
Most big retailers will use a couple of different companies but there's no definitive list of which retailers use which firms. Most retailers don't even tell you which company is delivering the parcel – you simply find out when the parcel turns up or a card arrives through your door.
So what are your rights?
If your parcel doesn't turn up, or is late, your first port of call should be the retailer as this is who has the relationship with the courier or parcel company. By law, goods should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'. What's reasonable will depend on the type of goods and the original estimate for delivery.
When it comes to problems with deliveries – say a parcel has gone missing or the contents
is damaged – you will have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which came into force in June 2013 and replaced the Distance Selling Regulations.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, when you buy goods from an online retailer, they are responsible for the goods until you receive them. So if the courier loses the goods you ordered or they are damaged, the retailer is responsible for putting things right, not the courier.
If you paid for a timed delivery – for example, the next day – and your parcel is late, you're perfectly entitled to ask for a refund of the money you paid for faster delivery.
Similarly, if the consumer told the retailer before the contract was entered into that delivery within an agreed timeframe was essential, then the consumer can cancel the order and ask for a refund.
If you want to send a parcel you have three main choices: Royal Mail, going direct to a courier or delivery company, or using a third-party broker.
Companies such as Parcel Monkey, Parcel Hero, MyParcelDelivery.com, and P4D.co.uk are all parcel brokers. They sell various pick-up and delivery options nationwide such as same day, next day, and 48 hours from all the major courier and parcel companies.
There aren't actually that many parcel companies. What causes this perception is the proliferation of online parcel brokers. Parcel brokers are essentially re-sellers; a re-seller will have an account with the main parcel companies and then re-sell the service to smaller, ad hoc customers.
The problem with parcel brokers is that when things go wrong, there's a third party involved. Locating a lost parcel can be time-consuming and frustrating.
Most couriers and parcel companies offer an online tracking option which, in theory, shows where your parcel is. In reality, tracking often shows messages like 'on
lorry for delivery', which doesn't tell you much.
A quick Google search shows you exactly how many customers are unhappy with the service they have recieved from couriers.
The most-complained about company is Hermes and Parcel Monkey also gets its fair share of complaints.
A key issue is that Parcel Monkey does not provide a telephone number; customers have to send a message via its website instead.
When deliveries fail to arrive, rather than dealing with the carrier direct, consumers have to deal with the parcel broker, which in turn then has to deal with the parcel carrier. This means the service you get will only be as good as the parcel broker you use.
If you paid for a 'timed delivery' and the parcel turns up late, you'll be eligible for compensation. How much you'll receive will vary depending on the length of delay, the courier and the type of delivery you paid for. For this reason, it's best to check your entitlement to compensation before you choose a delivery option.
What you won't get is compensation for 'consequential losses'. For example, if you pay for your passport to be couriered somewhere and its failure to turn up on time means you can't board a flight, you won't be covered for the cost of the flight.
Tips on sending parcels
- Labelling: it is important to get the address exactly right including the postcode. This should be attached securely or written on the packaging, as labels have been known to fall off.
- Packaging: parcels need to be packaged properly. Be prepared to provide the packaging you would expect to receive from a retailer.
- Pick the right service: measuring the dimensions and weight is important, as if you choose a 1kg service at a low cost, then send a 2kg parcel, the courier may charge you the difference and an admin charge.
- Buy insurance for your parcels if they are valuable.