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Your parcel is lost in the post – what next?

in Business Law by James Naughton on

There’s still something to be said about coming home to find a parcel waiting for you – even if you know it’s just those socks you bought online last week. But we’ve probably all experienced the anxiety of waiting and waiting for something to arrive – and what if it never does?

Unless you have a particular fondness for reading terms and conditions you might be surprised to know that compensation may be payable by Australia Post if postal items are lost or damaged in the Australia Post mail system.

Extra Cover can be purchased through Australia Post when an item is lodged or paid for, for an additional fee that provides coverage up to $5,000. In cases where extra cover is not purchased, Australia Post may offer compensation of up to $50.00 and a refund of postage paid, or they may elect to repair or replace a missing or damaged postal item, but this payment is at Australia Post’s discretion. Compensation is also available up to the amount of $100.00 for items sent by Registered Post.  Australia Post will not compensate you for loss and damage of some specific categories of mailed items such as bank notes or jewellery.

Obtaining compensation for an item purchased online that has been lost in the post can be difficult. If you have purchased an item from an online seller, it is usually the seller (or sender) who will be required to file a lost item report with Australia Post.

It may be difficult to convince the seller to fill out an Australia Post lost item report, especially if they’re located overseas. This is why it’s important to check the terms and conditions of sale of the online seller prior to purchasing, so if an item is lost, you are aware of your rights and the extent to which the seller may be prepared to assist you.

If your seller is located in Australia, our consumer laws will apply.  Australian sellers are required to repair or replace a product that is defective or does not live up to expectations, amongst other things, but these consumer guarantees do not extend to replacing an item that was posted by them, which was subsequently lost by Australia Post.

Australian consumer laws apply to overseas traders who do business in Australia but it is difficult to apply those laws in Australia. Also, it may be difficult to obtain compensation in circumstances where the postal item was lost by an overseas postal agency before it was receipted by Australia Post. Again you will have to read the terms and conditions of the international postal service provider to determine what avenues of redress – if any – are available to you.

Most online sellers have a business reputation to maintain and will seek to keep their customers happy. You may be able to rely on this goodwill to seek the sellers help to recover a lost item, or obtain compensation for it. If the seller is difficult to deal with, eBay and PayPal also have complaints resolution services on their websites.

Assuming that the seller is in a position to assist you, and prepares a lost item report, if you believe that Australia Post has not adequately addressed your concerns, the Postal Industry Ombudsman (PIO) may also be able to assist in some circumstances. Some of the more common complaints that the Postal Industry Ombudsman deals with include compensation for postal items lost or damaged and delayed mail. 

The overwhelming majority of postal items bought online are delivered, however when things go wrong it is important to know your rights. Unfortunately, the path to compensation can be difficult. The old adage still applies: “buyer beware”.

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