Hellmail Guide To Royal Mail Compensation
About This Guide
This guide was produced by Hellmail to help you understand how Royal Mail's compensation scheme works, both on paper and in practice in as straightforward a manner as possible. Our thanks to Royal Mail for helping us clarify 'Special Delivery' and 'Signed For' and simplifying certain areas of the guide. We hope it proves useful to you and if so, please DO visit one of our sponsors to show your appreciation!
The information provided on this page is our interpretation of Royal Mail's rules at the time of going to press and is designed as a laypersons guide to Royal Mail compensation terms. We accept no responsibility for loss or damage arising from any actions on your part resulting from your use of this guide. Additionally, you should check the Royal Mail web site, call customer enquiries or ask at your local post office if you require a definitive answer. Royal Mail also varies its terms from time to time and you should check their web site to ensure that their terms have not changed.
Royal Mail Obligations
Firstly, there is no 100% guarantee that any mail you send will arrive intact and on time, nor in fact does Royal Mail guarantee this. Assuming otherwise will not help your case. Mail sent outside the UK has the potential for all kinds of delays, much of which is outside the control of Royal Mail so lets look at Inland Mail.
Royal Mail aims to deliver 92.5% of Inland mail the day after it is posted although this figure is likely to be revised by the regulator and Royal Mail has on occasions fallen short of this in some areas. To put this in context, Royal Mail has paid out tens of millions of pounds in compensation for late mail. The enforced compensation scheme was introduced in 2003 and in 2008, the expectations of customers in terms of customer service were also beefed-up to reflect the abolition of Postwatch. However, you cannot make direct comparisons to statutory laws which apply to the 'sale of goods' which is why we have produced this guide! Royal Mail is required to comply with the Postal Services Act and this is very different from the usual consumer laws. There is no 'contract' between you and Royal Mail - understand this from the outset. You will not be able to jump any hoops or bypass Royal Mail's rulebook other than where a dispute is unresolved and the matter is escalated. Even so, you could still find you get the same answer from someone further up the chain. Royal Mail's compensatory scheme is extremely rigid. They rarely if ever bend the rules.
That said, there are certain obligations placed on Royal Mail including 'Quality Of Service' under the conditions of the licence that PostComm grants to Royal Mail. We are grateful to Royal Mail themselves for helping us make this page simple to understand and for clarifying 'Special Delivery' and 'Signed For' for us in particular.
Compensation for Domestic Mail
Clearly Royal Mail revises its level of compensation from time to time, but at the time of going to press, for basic claims, where it is not so easy to prove how many days a piece of mail has been delayed, compensation will be set at 12 first-class stamps. Where there is clear evidence of delay, compensation will be £5. This is doubled to £10 if the delay is 10 days or more after the due date of delivery. For Special Delivery, in addition to the compensation, there will also be a refund of postage costs.
Business customers are compensated at the rate of 1% of their Royal Mail bills for each 1% that Royal Mail fails to meet national targets. The minimum payment will be at a shortfall of 1% and increase by 0.1% increments up to a maximum of 5%.
When Is Mail Late Or Lost?
Ok, no one here wants to get too bogged down with statistics so lets assume then that a good proportion of mail will arrive at its final inland destination the following day. If an item is more than four days late it is regarded as 'late mail', after 15 WORKING days it is regarded as 'lost mail' (If reported that is). As reader John Fisher pointed out to us, those 15 days can actually amount to 22 days if you include weekends, so factor this in when lodging a complaint.
Minimising 'Lost Mail' - The Sender
You can avoid this to some extent by considering the way you package items. Royal Mail will tell you that they still get badly addressed mail and have a whole unit in Ireland devoted to just this.
What you don't need is a delay whilst a post worker works out where it is actually meant to be going. Postcodes are essential and in fact the Royal Mail only need a house number and a postcode to delivery correctly but the complete address helps your local Postie find the address.
Postal workers are frequently switched from one round (or walk) to another these days so a clear address is important. An item may go through the sorting offices with a postcode but its a bit much expecting your Postie to have to refer to charts just to find you. Put the name, the full address and postcode on the item itself if you can (as well as on the packaging) - in ink that won't wash off in a mild shower or come adrift through not affixing the label correctly. Birthday cards (and people still send them with money, or gift vouchers inside) might be better sent inside a larger brown envelope for instance - thats OUR tip.
Damage In The System
Machines handle vast amounts of packets and letters, and while these are often successfully segregated, a lot of envelopes that should be packets end up being mistakenly sorted by machines designed for letters. The result is a blockage in the machine with the original letter ripped to bits and several hundred others crashing into it, becoming damaged also.
This accounts for a percentage of 'value' or social mail being lost and often is caused by something small such as a simple paperclip or studded earning embedded within an envelope.
Ensure that items are secure. A Postman who served many years with Royal Mail advised us that if you could throw an item into the air and drop it without damaging the contents or it coming apart, you have packaged it correctly. It seems a brutal way to test an item but he was quite right. If you don't package items carefully, particularly breakables, then you really only have yourself to blame and the chances are, Royal Mail could well refuse to pay compensation if they decide the item was not packaged properly. An item can take quite a few knocks on route so its better to have too much packaging than too little. At least allow for the drop of an item from a letterbox to a hard floor!
Moral: Royal Mail can and do refuse compensation for damage if the packaging is deemed inadequate so use common sense.
Items of value
You'd be surpised just how many people send cash through the post but its an easy target for theft. We STRONGLY recommend that you DO NOT DO THIS. If you have no other choice, do at least disguise it or better still, ensure you are adequately covered if it should go missing (see 'Special Delivery' further down this page). Enclose it in card or in some other item less likely to scream 'money'.
If the item you are sending has any value, you MUST make sure it is insured. If you don't and send the item by regular post or 'Recorded/Signed For' you will get little if nothing in terms of compensation, except perhaps the book of stamps or a refind of postage but there is no guarantee you will even get those. Insuring the item is no guarantee the item will arrive at its destination but you should at least get full compensation if the item vanishes into the abyss that is affectionately known as 'Lost Mail'. See 'Special Delivery' for applicable insurance cover.
This is Royal Mail's flagship product and they will be keen to sell it to you. With SD Next Day you get compensation up to £500 or the value of the item (whichever is lower). If the item is more valuable you can buy additional compensation cover up to £2,500 and they do offer consequential loss as well (eg for artwork / documents where the intrinsic value is low, but the cost to replace is much higher).
However, don't get excited and draw the conclusion that Royal Mail pays £500 for every lost SD item - it doesn't work lik that. As stated, the maximum payable is based on the actual contents of the SD item (which you would need to prove) up to a maximum of £500 and where the item is something you're selling to someone else, Royal Mail will only compensate you for the wholesale, not retail value. You also need to put in your claim within THREE months. Any later and you'll have lost your right to redress.
There are additional compensation levels available for Standard Parcels as well, although it's not a next day or time-guaranteed service. And yes - if you sent £500 in cash by SD Next Day (though we really don't recommend you send cash through the post) and it got lost - you'd get your £500 back, plus the fee you paid in the first place - provided you've kept the Certificate of Posting (CoP) and claim via Customer Services as normal. On standard cover, if you sent £800 or an item of similar value, you would only be compensated £500 - unless you pay for additional; cover at time of posting.
Just bear in mind it could take up to three months to resolve though. If you send cash or valuables through the post by any other service you will get NO compensation - the extra cost for SD enables Royal Mail to put it through a much more secure pipeline.
SD Next Day is guaranteed by 1pm. The guarantee is that RM will refund the postage if they deliver after 9am, or after 13.00 (depending on which service you purchased), if they're late in delivering it.
Recorded (Signed For)
Recorded Signed For - you'll get no compensation AT ALL if you send cash/jewellery (as defined by the Scheme) by Recorded Signed For.
Unfortunately customers still have a habit of mis-purchasing this service when SD provides proper cover. This is set out on the labels / CoP you get at the Counter and on the Royal Mail web-site. The Counter Clerk should make it clear when purchasing but in the end, the onus is on you to get it right. If you need an item there next day with adequate insurance cover - Recorded Signed For will not 'do the job' and it is NOT the right service in this instance.
On signatures, Royal Mail does point out the following:
"We make sure we get a signature from whoever receives the item, but bear in mind that this may not be the person named on the address label. If there iss noone available to sign for the item and the item is not collected or redelivery rearranged within seven calendar days, we return your mail free, with a note saying why we can't deliver it. On the rare occasions that we don’t get a signature for any other reason, we'll refund your money."
It is less than clear what happens if the item is misdelivered (ie wrong address) and proving this could prove extremely difficult. We have known rare cases where items were delivered to the wrong address and a signature obtained but you may well find that Royal Mail wins here. As with all compensation claims, proof is essential but essentially the item will have been delivered and a signature obtained. Although Royal Mail does use some discretion when it comes to claims, we suspect that in such a case, that may be where the matter ends. Royal Mail will (and you would expect it to) take reasonable steps to avoid paying out compensation where there is no proof and/or a great deal of doubt surrounding a claim.
You get NO additional compensation over and above what you get for normal 1st class and 2nd class post. All you're paying for is a signature on delivery, and you get a CoP automatically which will help a lot if you need to claim from Royal Mail, or indeed if you want to prove to someone that you posted it. The maximum Royal Mail will run to in compensation is the value of 100 First Class stamps
Essentially 'Signed For' is ideal for documents where you need to ensure the recipient or his/her agent gets the item but do NOT use this for items of value. It is however not guaranteed since there are practical ssues with 'signed for' type mail and all too often, they can get posted through with ordinary mail. There is still some discussion as to whether it is a service worth continuing. Click here for an article on the 'signed for service.
Particularly valuable items might be best sent by a specialist courier company or taken there yourself. If you're a business, do bear in mind that any compensation is limited to the value of the item minus any profit and you can't file a complaint until 15 working days have elapsed (the time span Royal Mail regard as 'lost' mail. Until 15 working days have elapsed, missing mail is regarded as 'late' mail and they therefore won't do a thing until 15 working days have passed since despatch. You can also expect to wait up to three months for any compensation and it has to be made using the obligatory forms at that.
If you were expecting a valuable item, only the sender can claim, minus any profit.
Credit cards are ridiculously easy to pull from the postal network as they can be felt. We are still at a loss as to why banks even post them. It would make far more sense to send them to a local branch where one could collect them in person, with the required ID.
EBAY - Items that never arrive
There seems to be much confusion on what a buyer should do when an item does not arrive. Here are some facts:
Sellers often give choices on postage - ie first class, insured etc. Part of the reason they do this is to give the impression that their item is cheaper than another but its a dangerous game for sellers. The fact is, regardless of how the item is shipped, loss is ALWAYS down to the seller. Only the SELLER can put in a claim. If an item fails to arrive you should inform the seller and ask for a replacement to be sent or a refund. You have no obligation to wait until the seller has been compensated by Royal Mail. This is not your problem. However, if it arrives a few days ater you MUST notify the seller.
Opting out of Royal Mails Junk (D2D) service.
If you do not wish to receive junk mail from Royal Mail you can email email@example.com or call direct on 08457 950950. You can also write:
Door to Door Customer Services
Please be aware however, that if you DO opt out, ALL unaddressed mail will stop and this includes information from the government, your local council etc - which could include things like plans to make road changes, plans for your local area etc so do think carefully before you opt out.
If you have any tips you'd like to pass on, please email us via the mail link at the bottom of this page.
© Hellmail.co.uk (31 July 2011)