EBAY - Parcels & Claims(Updated February 2011)
Disclaimer: The content of this page is NOT bound in law and is meant as a rough guide ONLY. Royal Mail and Ebay can vary its terms from time to time so this information is provided on the basis that the onus is on you to check current practices and we will not be held liable should the information prove to be out of date or inaccurate. Other carriers have different rules and some have less flexible compensation schemes than Royal Mail.
We receive quite a few complaints every year concerning EBAY items going missing. Whilst the reasons that items go missing is a topic in itself, we have put together a down-to-earth advice page for both buyers and sellers with respect to use of Royal Mail services. It also applies to parcels in general
Ebay has its own policies related to buying and selling which you can find here
A useful three-page guide created by an Ebay user can also be found here: http://pages.ebay.in/help/policies/index.html
Sending Items - Royal Mail
You can use First or Second Class - or 'Signed For' if the items are worth no more than the value of 100 first class stamps. At the time we last updated this guide, with First Class stamps costing 41p this would equate to £41 we think - but do check first!
If the item is worth more than 100 first class stamps and/or you want a more secure service, Special Delivery is the way to send an item.
Special Delivery (SD) is for items worth more than the equivalent of 100 first class stamps. On the whole it provides a far more secure way to send parcels/packages since SD is handled differently to ordinary mail - ask any postie this. 'Recorded' is generally bundled with ordinary mail whereas SD is seen as a flagship product (it ought to be at that price) and takes priority over all other mail. In fact, with the exception of bad Winters when Royal Mail is sometimes allowed to relax guarantees, SD items may be the only deliveries that go out during delivery difficulties (ie industrial action).
Many sellers use this method - ideal for documents or low-value items. In theory it is meant to prove an item has been delivered but in practice is bundled with ordinary mail and we frequently get cases where items are not signed for at all. It is NOT Tracked and not particularly secure beyond the label removing exercise on the doorstep. Royal Mail can only confirm if the item has been delivered (and you can do this online) but it can't monitor the item enroute and it has no special security measures attached to the service. The practicalities of delivering mail to large organisations also means that more often than not, a signature is not obtained and it will arrive along with ordinary mail - as is.
First class mail offers the same compensation level only without the signature, so you pay your money and take your choice on this one. Even Postwatch regard 'Recorded/Signed For' as a service that is probably out of date now. Whilst it works in theory, it often doesn't in practice. None of Royal Mail services are actually 'guaranteed' either in practice or law (see "If I Post An item Does This Form Part Of A Contract?" further down this page).
Compensation &- Value
It can take quite a while for Royal Mail to investigate a lost/damaged parcel claim - anything up to three months for international claims and three weeks for Inland. You must have proof of posting, receipts - in fact as much as possible in order to support your claim and to avoid any delays in it being processed. Make SURE that you have copies of Ebay/Paypal reciepts BEFORE they expire or are deleted from your email account.
Royal Mail will require you to complete a form and you can't put in a claim until (in the case of a lost item) it is deemed lost - currently 15 days. They will generally write to the recipient to confirm that the item did not arrive and unless they confirm this, unfortunately Royal Mail will regard the item as delivered and thats that.
Royal Mail will only compensate for the COST PRICE of the item - NOT its retail value. This doesn't always go down too well with sellers, and it has been challenged but no legal precedent has been set. Value is ascertained by Royal Mail's assessment team who will decide on the items current market value only. If you are a trader and sold a second hand mobile phone that cost you £10, even if you sold the phone for £200, you would still only get its £10 market value. On the other hand, if you had bought the phone as a consumer for £200 and were sending it as a gift, you would get the full £200 if you can provide a genuine receipt.
If I Post An item Does This Form Part Of A Contract?
No, no and no. Royal Mail is not governed by normal consumer law. The Special Delivery service (like most Royal Mail services) is provided under the Postal Services Act 2000 and is not a contractual service. Therefore Royal Mail have no liability in contract law or tort in respect of any failure, and they have an exemption of liability for negligence - for example if an employee stands on a parcel and breaks it. This is an IMPORTANT point and it would be wise if you forget the words 'contract' or 'obligation' altogether since it does not apply in the case of posted items. Compensation is also completely at RM's discretion although you can escalate this if you genuinely feel you have a strong case. Present guidelines can be found here.
Consequential Loss - Can I claim that too?
You can't normally claim consequential loss unless you use Special Delivery and take out the relevant insurance at the time of posting. For example, if somebody is sending something time sensitive such as a redemption for a mobile phone "Cashback" offer which seem very popular at the moment, they could take out consequential loss insurance to cover themselves in case the claim didn't arrive in time for the cut off date. Exceptions might be: It's Royal Mail's fault that I was unable to attend an interview because my new suit did not arrive on time and therefore I remain unemployed".
In essence thats a ridiculous claim anyway but the point is made hopefully. I'm sure if the suit DID arrive on time and you HAD got the job, Royal Mail would be delighted for you, but they will merely raise an eyebrow if you make claims for losses incurred because of late or non-deliveries without relevant insurance as mentioned above. That said, you might get the honour of making the 'humour' section on Royal Mails internal noticeboards - fame at least. Again, guidelines can be found here.
Best advice here is DON'T. There are far more secure ways of sending money including direct bank transfer and even a cheque. However, if you must send money, send only bank notes no coins), only use Special Delivery, and only use a tamperproof Special Delivery envelope available free of charge from any Post Office. Technically you can, and Royal Mail say Special Delivery will cover it providing it matches value given at point of purchase.
Royal Mail does not refund postage in the case of loss or damage to most items. The only exception for this is Special Delivery where the fee will be refunded in the case of loss - but not for damage. They will refund SD costs if the item does not arrive before its SD deadline (usually 9am or 1pm)
Disputes & Refunds
Ebay has a wealth of information relating to what is expected of sellers but if a buyer does not receive an item it is up to the seller to deal with this promptly. A seller cannot for instance deny a buyer a refund or replacement because he or she is waiting for Royal Mail to compensate for the loss. In short, the law is on the side of the buyer - not the seller. We have come across instances where sellers will accept returns and refund for this but NOT the postage (as stated in their terms). We're still looking at how the law relates to this and whether the buyer should expect a refund of ALL money paid including postage whether in the terms or not but at present this remains unclear.
People don't package properly. Its a fact. Royal Mail waste a lot of time trying to patch up badly wrapped items, as well as trying to work out what to do with items where address labels have been lost. Too many people wrap items in a lightweight manner in the way they wrap Christmas presents with almost no regard for the all the picking up, moving, transporting that parcels invariably go through. A mobile phone just dropped into a jiffy bag for instance, would not be sufficient and neither would marking a parcel 'fragile' if you had not made use of proper packaging materials, and the item could rattle around inside. Use common sense here. Items can be subject to extra weight placed on top of them as well as knocks, drops and falls. I'm not suggesting for one minute that Royal Mail drivers go round corners on two wheels but if you plan for that scenario, your item should be fine.
We have yet to find out what criteria Royal Mail actually use to decide if an item was properly packaged but we assume its also based on common sense. If you're unsure, ask yourself this: Will it stand being thrown in the air? Would it stand a 20 Kg weight on it? If the answer is no, consider a better way of packaging the item. Do NOT assume that because an item is boxed a certain way by the manufacturer that this will be adequate. Even items delivered to shops are usually in quantity and come in larger stronger boxes. Could it be sat on for instance?
I know of one instance where Royal Mail deemed that a computer motherboard in its original box was not packaged properly. As it happened, the item arrived with a rather large boot mark on it which gave some indication as to why the item had been damaged, but this can be a grey area and you may have to argue your case strongly. Royal Mail have to deal with thousands of items a day that are badly packaged/addressed - bear that in mind. It also delays delivery.
I know of one Post Office that wasn't keen to accept a parcel with duck tape on it. There may be technical difficuties with handling parcels so wrapped (have no idea) but these days almost every £1 shop in the land sells the usual parcel tape so theres no excuse not to use it really. Don't use masking tape - it has a low-ish tack value and is not at all suitable for securing parcels. Make sure the senders address is ON the box and preferably ON the item inside too. If the package comes apart in transit, labels can get lost so make sure Royal Mail can discover who owns it! This is why unclaimed items at Royal Mail become unclaimed and eventually auctioned off if they cannot reunite the item with the correct owner..
Useful links on packaging:
http://www.royalmail.com/portal/rm/content1?catId=400044 & ;mediaId=400251
According to Ebay, sellers may charge 'reasonable' postage & packaging charges to cover the costs of posting, packaging, and handling the items they are selling. Ebay say they don't set specifications on what a seller may or may not charge for postage but that it will consider member reports when determining whether or not a seller' s postage, handling, packaging, and/or insurance charges are excessive. Postage & packaging and handling charges may not be listed as a percentage of the final sale price.
In addition to the final listing price, sellers are permitted to charge:
Actual Postage cost: This is the actual cost of delivering the item.
Handling Fee: Actual packaging materials costs may be charged. A handling fee in addition to actual postage cost may be charged if it is not excessive. Sellers who want to be sure they are in compliance with this policy may charge actual postage costs plus actual packaging materials cost.
Insurance: Sellers offering insurance may only charge the actual fee for insurance. No additional amount may be added, such as "self-insurance". Sellers who do not use a licensed third-party insurance company may not require buyers to purchase insurance.
Tax: VAT may be charged if the seller is actually registered for this..
The item I purchased has not arrived. What next?
Firstly, any claim with Royal Mail is between the sender and them. They may write to you to confirm that the item has not arrived but this may take some time. In the meantime, your claim falls under normal consumer laws and the seller (allowing a reasonable amount of time for delays in the post) must reimburse you or send a replacement. You do NOT have to await the outcome of any claim the sender/seller is making with Royal Mail.
If insurance is offered by the seller, and the buyer declines, it is still the seller's responsibility. And also if the seller states in the listing that no refunds will be given for loss or damage then that has no value in law and they must give a refund. Never let the seller 'assist you' with the claim - ensure you receive a full refund, and any claim would be an issue between the seller and RM, you would have no involvement.
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