With Black Friday approaching, and Christmas just around the corner, the chances are you'll be sending and receiving a fair few parcels in the coming weeks. In which case it pays to know your rights when things go wrong. 

The rise of online shopping means we’re sending and receiving more parcels and packages than ever before. Unfortunately, it also means there’s more likelihood of your parcel going missing, or otherwise failing to be delivered.

In this article we take at look at your rights when sending and receiving parcels.

Sending or receiving a package used to be a simple affair, as everything would usually be handled by Royal Mail. And whilst it might not have been the easiest company to deal with, when things went wrong there was at least a full and detailed claims procedure to follow.

The growth of sites like Amazon, eBay, Boohoo etc… has led to an increase in the number of private parcel delivery companies vying for business, all of which are unregulated. In the UK Royal Mail is the designated ‘universal service provider.’ That means it must follow strict conditions laid down by Parliament and enforced by the regulator OFCOM.

These conditions help provide a universal service that includes deliveries six days a week and fair and uniform prices across the country. Not being subject to such rules allows private firms to routinely undercut Royal Mail on price, whilst in some cases providing a poorer service.

Receiving a parcel

Often when you order something online you’re stuck with whichever courier the seller decides to choose. If you’re lucky it might be DPD, if not you could be stuck with Yodel.

Of course things can go wrong with any courier, and when they do it’s the quality of the customer service that matters. How many times have you waited for a delivery online to find the driver hasn’t turned up, left a card without knocking, or dumped your parcel in the recycling bin in full view of the passing public?

The good news is that when buying online you’re protected by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. This makes clear that ‘the retailer is responsible for the condition of the goods until the goods are received by you, or by someone else you have nominated to receive them on your behalf such as a neighbour.’

It also means that the retailer is liable for services provided by the courier is employs. So if you do ever have a problem with a delivery your first port of call is the retailer you bought the goods from. You are of course free to contact the courier yourself, but since you don’t have a contract with them, may not provide the help you need.

By law, goods should be delivered in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. How long that is depends on the type of goods bought and original delivery estimate, but by law the seller has 30 days to get the package to you. If you have paid for a specific delivery e.g. next day, Saturday etc… and your parcel is late, you are entitled to request a refund on the cost of that timed delivery. You will have to contact the seller to ask for this as it's unlikely to be applied automatically.

Most of the good couriers these days have help services available on Twitter. At Moneysaving Answers, we find we get a much better response from the courier when we contact them via twitter. With everything in the public domain, it’s in their best interest to help you as quickly as possible.

Sending Parcels

When sending a parcel, you’ve three main choices. Royal Mail, a private courier firm such as Parcelforce, or a broker. The later is often much cheaper but there are a few things you need to be aware of before booking via a third party.

Insuring your delivery

Firstly, brokers like Parcel2go and Parcel Monkey do not provide insurance by default. For example, if you book direct with UPS depending on your parcel size and delivery method, the package will automatically be insured up to £50. The same package booked via Parcel2go using UPS as the courier will typically not come with any insurance at all. What’s more, adding insurance is often expensive at rate of £1 per £20 of value. On a package worth £500 suddenly that £10 delivery now costs £35.

You might be thinking, ‘well do I even need insurance?’ After all it’s the couriers job to get the package from A to B without damage or loss. Unfortunately, since there is no regulation amongst private couriers, in event of a loss or failed delivery they need only refund the cost of the service. They will argue that these keeps price lower for less valuable items.

We’d like to see some regulation in this area with a base level of insurance e.g. £20 for any package, and additional insurance a set fee, similar to Royal Mail.

Dealing with complaints

If you’ve booked direct with a courier, then should anything go wrong you know exactly who to call to get it sorted out. You’re a direct customer, and provided you’ve chosen wisely, no doubt they’ll pull out all the stops to sort the issue out.

If you’ve used a broker, then your contract is with them, and you must rely on your broker to call the courier and track down your parcel or sort out the issue on your behalf. This is easier said than done. Neither Parcel Monkey nor Parcel2go provide a telephone number (to keep costs down), so you need to enter a web chat via their websites. Good luck.

Tracking

Once you parcel is in the system there should be no difference between a broker versus going direct after all your package is booked onto the same service. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case. Parcel2go’s tracking is particularly poor. Login into my account, I can see parcels that I sent weeks ago still showing as undelivered. Yet tacking the tracking number from the label and putting into the courier own website shows that my packages were delivered on time. Yet another problem of a third party service.

Delivery

Just as with receiving a parcel, if you’ve booked a collection and delivery and the courier fails to fulfil that then you are entitled to a refund. Where things differ however is when using timed services. For example, if you book a 24-hour delivery but the parcel is takes longer to be delivered then you often have little comeback. This is because most timed services are a guideline at best. Couriers expect you to pay extra for a ‘guaranteed’ service, where you would then have the right to an automatic refund if they miss the deadline.

Our picks of the best delivery companies

DPD – top notch service with 1-hour delivery windows

TNT/UK Mail – both use the same tracking service as DPD and offer a 1 hour delivery/collection window as standard.

Parcelfore – Being owned by Royal Mail usually means the drivers have excellent knowledge of tricky addresses. Missed deliveries can be taken to your local Post Office for collection that day.

Services to avoid

Hermes – Another service that using a ‘self employed’ drivers. Meaning if you miss a delivery you’ve got to call a mobile number on the back of the card.

Yodell – Claim items will be delivered between 7am-7pm. Yes they expect you to wait in for 12 hours. 58% of voters in a moneysavingexpert.com survey claimed they had experienced difficulties with Yodel.

 

 

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