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What are you entitled to if a delivery company loses your stuff?

In light of last week’s raid on a Parcel Motel depot in west Dublin, we ask what customers of delivery services are entitled to when things go awry in transit.

Parcel Motel stock Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

LAST WEEK, A Parcel Motel depot in west Dublin was raided by thieves with dozens of locker-boxes emptied of their contents.

The company, a subsidiary of courier service Nightline, is an Irish take on the idea of alternative delivery – useful for keeping gifts from the eyes of those they’re intended for, accessing items that would not ordinarily be delivered to Ireland, or just removing the need to be present at point of delivery.

The company has banks of lockers, similar to safe deposit boxes, at varying locations around the country, from petrol station forecourts to supermarkets.

However, the product is obviously a little less attractive if it can be broken by thieves, which may explain Parcel Motel’s decision to reimburse its Adamstown customers in full.

But are things always so straightforward if merchandise should go astray in transit? And what are your rights if things do go wrong?

Liability

As mentioned above, Parcel Motel has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that all of the victims of the Adamstown theft will be fully reimbursed.

This is in line with the company’s stated terms and conditions assuming all the goods stolen were worth no more than €100.

The company has a proviso that “we may from time to time accept liability in excess of the limit set out above upon you agreeing to pay additional charges for us accepting such increased liability”, which effectively means if you get in touch with Parcel Motel in advance you can upgrade their liability on a package for an extra fee – for goods of greater material worth basically.

Whether or not some customers had taken advantage of this clause is unclear – all that’s certain, per a Parcel Motel spokesperson, is that:

“All affected customers have been contacted and Parcel Motel will be reimbursing customers the value of any packages that have been affected.”

1 The aftermath of the Parcel Motel raid in Adamstown, west Dublin, earlier this week Source: Nauris Serna

Perhaps given the importance of reputation in any industry, especially with Christmas around the corner and the number of gifts that will be sent with courier companies, such a move makes a lot more sense in the long run.

Ordinarily the company holds its liability for theft, loss, or damage to be either the value of the goods or €100, whichever is less. Parcel Motel doesn’t query the value of a package prior to its sending or receipt.

This is in line with the conditions offered by rival international courier (and recent purchaser of Nightline, Parcel Motel’s owner) UPS, which offers to reimburse to the value of €85 in Ireland or €9 per kilogram weight of the package. It is also possible for whoever sends the shipment with UPS to declare a higher value before sending the goods.

World-renowned courier DHL, meanwhile, acknowledges a contract with those sending the package only – which means if something goes missing in transit the person or company sending the goods are the only ones who can claim for the loss.

Is all this legal?

We asked the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), Ireland’s consumer watchdog, whether such small print is all above board. And the answer appears to be yes.

“This is all covered by the (EU’s) Consumer Rights Directive, subsection five,” a spokesperson told us.

ccpc

“In the case of a service like Parcel Motel, there are two contracts – one between an online retailer, like Amazon for example, and one between the buyer and Parcel Motel. Once the goods reach the Parcel Motel warehouse all risk has left Amazon. From there the risk is with you. With third party carriers the risk is always with the buyer, not the company.”

Which would seem to suggest that, as things stand, customers are doing well to have a delivery service accept any liability at all – they’re entitled not to.

“What we would say is that if you’re using a third party delivery service like Parcel Motel, review the terms and conditions beforehand and be sure that the level of liability coverage is sufficient,” says the CCPC.
There are alternative delivery services with higher fees, for example, if you’re not satisfied.
If it’s a case, however, that the delivery company isn’t meeting its obligations, make a formal complaint to them. If that doesn’t work, the lodgement of a small claims procedure would be probably your next move.

Is it fair?

So, legal it may be, but is it really fair to the consumer? Leaving the reimbursement seen in this case aside, is the approach of these delivery companies sufficiently customer-friendly.

“It’s hard to say that this case fully satisfies the needs of the customer,” head of policy with the Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) Dermott Jewell told TheJournal.ie.

“I think the important element here is that Parcel Motel has set itself up as the final point of delivery collection – if that point is, say, a keycoded structure, then there should really be some liability assumed by the company on behalf of the customer, particularly if the facility is proven to be not robust enough.”

If a bank is broken into, it’s still liable to its customers for the money held on their behalf, unless it attempted to change that liability via contract.

Jewell adds that in the modern consumer world very expensive items can nevertheless come in very small packages.

“If that’s the case, there should really be an acknowledgement of such liability,” he said.

I have no doubt that everything is legal, but even so it is in the company’s interests to consider the needs of their users, particularly in light of last week’s incident. It makes sense for them to review it.
Because otherwise they could be losing customers.

Read: The pound’s plunge is sending Irish ‘tooth tourists’ north of the border

Read: ‘Some people say ‘it’s just what lads do’. But it’s not. It makes women feel insecure and threatened’

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