The thing about package delivery companies is everyone – everyone – has a horror story about them.

As I write this column, a notorious delivery company has just pretended it tried to deliver a parcel to my flat (it didn’t). When I went to the foyer to see if it had been abandoned there instead, I found a different parcel – a gift from a friend – that had just been dumped there. Oh, and last week, two parcels from a major online retailer – you know the one – were ‘handed to the address’ according to the tracking (oh no they weren’t).

Last week I met up with my fabulous Mirror editorial team, Levi and Ruby, for a catch up. During our chat, Ruby proceeded to tell me her story about a delivery she was expecting that was repeatedly lost. When the parcel finally appeared (back at the sender) the entire contents were ruined beyond repair. The saga was so convoluted and the service reached such heights of rubbishness, I was flabbergasted.

So why do we put up with this? Well the simple answer is: we don’t have much choice.

The problem with delivery companies

Every year, Citizen’s Advice releases its package delivery league tables. Once again, not one company met the threshold to be ‘recommended’ this year and no business scored over 2.75 stars out of five, which is a sorry state of affairs.

Citizens Advice also found that 13 million people had encountered a problem with a parcel delivery in the last month. A further half had a problem when it came to sorting out the dispute. You can check out the research here.

Parcel companies are regulated by Ofcom, who has raised a number of concerns over the behaviour and service provided by the main players. But unlike other Ofcom regulated industries, like broadband, TV streaming and mobile or landline phones, you can’t go to a free Communications Ombudsman if something goes wrong with a delivery company. This is clearly an anomaly that needs sorting out urgently.

Ofcom introduced new rules for delivery firms last year which mean that couriers should be making it easy to contact them.

These rules state that if you complain to a parcel company, you should be told:

  • Who to contact.
  • Which channels you can use to make a complaint.
  • What the complaint process will be, and how long it should take to resolve.
  • That the complaint should be dealt with by staff who have received appropriate training.

However, I’ve checked the websites of many delivery companies and the option to call them is sadly lacking in most instances. In fact there’s an over-reliance on chatbots and live chat, which is another thing I’ll be tackling this year.

Your rights when receiving parcels

If you are receiving a parcel from a retailer then there’s only one rule to remember. Your contract is with the retailer not the delivery firm.

The business that sold you the goods is responsible for getting them to you intact. This includes refunding you if the parcel or its contents are damaged.  This also includes if the parcel is not delivered to you personally or left where you told the retailer to leave it.

I hear from loads of readers who tell me that their parcel has gone missing in transit. So just to clarify, you are entitled to a refund if the parcel has been:

  • Left somewhere you haven’t authorised.
  • Left with an unauthorised neighbour.
  • Left in a communal or unsecured area.
  • Left outside a door (then goes missing).

Things get a bit more complicated if you’ve been sent a parcel or a gift by a friend or family member. Technically the recipient can complain to the business, but it’s often (slightly) easier for the sender to make the complaint. They will need their tracking number to do this. It makes sense to photo both the parcel and any receipt with the tracking number on it when you send an item so you have it to hand.

Your rights when sending parcels

Millions of people are taking advantage of online marketplace websites to sell second-hand goods. And that means lots of us are becoming more acquainted with the challenges of sending parcels.

It makes sense to prepare for the worst when sending a parcel. So make sure you read the online guides with your chosen courier before sending the item. Some couriers have surprisingly detailed instructions covering how certain items have to be packaged. Finicky these may be, but make sure you follow them. I’d photo the item before and after you package it up so you have a record of doing this. Taking pics is vital if you’re selling goods so you can prove the item sent is in the condition you advertised it as.

Make sure you read the courier’s policy covering lost or damaged parcels, so you know your rights if something goes wrong.

Package delivery insurance

Of course, insuring your delivery is one way to cover yourself for damaged or lost parcels. But nothing is ever simple.

Firstly, most package delivery insurance products aren’t actually insurance contracts. They are ‘service contracts’ – an agreement between you and the business. This subtle difference matters because you can go to the free Financial Ombudsman about a package delivery insurance complaint that you can’t sort out. But service contracts are not covered by the ombudsman.

On top of that, some courier companies don’t cover you for damage to a surprisingly large number of items. One courier I checked excludes 171 different categories of items. At least it’s honest about what you can’t send. Other couriers don’t have clear or easy to find guides on what not to send.

Of course, some things you can’t send because they are illegal, or breach rules in other countries. But among the more bizarre exclusions I found are:

  • Musical instruments.
  • Cigarettes, cigars and other finished tobacco products.
  • Paintings and prints.
  • Plants, seeds, flowers and plant derivatives.
  • Spectacles and optical equipment, including telescopes and binoculars.

Oh, and just to compound things, some contract terms are so vague or broad they could exclude most things, like:

  • Items which can be exchanged by themselves or with any other item for money or goods or services.
  • Important documentation, ‘such as medical, employment, property or commercial records’.
  • Items which have been strapped together.
  • Household goods & personal effects.

The simplest way around this is to tell the courier company exactly what it is you’re sending and what it’s worth, before committing to using them.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

Please share me around

Share useful info with your friends