The internet has revolutionised the world of communication. No longer do we have to pen a physical letter, cram it into a nearby letterbox and wait for a week or more for a reply; instead we can fire off an email and expect a reply in a matter of moments. What’s more, there’s little risk of our communications getting lost or damaged along the way.

The same technology has allowed us to make another use of the postal service, however – online retailers can take electronic forms of payment and then deliver their goods directly to your front door. But this approach isn’t fool proof. Out of all of the millions of packages which we Britons send and receive each year, a significant chunk will become lost or damaged in the process. If you’re running an online retailer, or if you’re buying from one, then it’s especially important to appraise yourself of your rights when something does go wrong.

In the event of your post getting lost or damaged along the way, it’s the responsibility of the selling party to replace the item or compensate the customer. They can then claim back from their insurer or shipping provider. This means that customers should deal only with the retailer when something goes wrong.

With that said, a collaborative approach to making a claim can hugely increase the chance of said compensation being approved and received. Let’s take a look at how such claims can go through.

How much am I entitled to?

The precise amount for which you can claim will vary according to the service you’re shipping with, and the amount of cover you’ve paid for. In the case of the Royal Mail, there are several insurance options. You’ll automatically get a certain level of cover: nominally £20 for a first or second-class package. If you’ve stumped up the cash for a special delivery, this coverage will go all the way up to £50. As such, unless you’re sending a particularly valuable package, sticking with the standard delivery charges is quite a sensible thing to do.

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If you are sending a very expensive package, on the other hand, you’ll want to opt for what the Royal Mail call enhanced compensation. This goes all the way up to £2,500 per consignment. If you’re unsure of the different options available, it’s worth taking a look at the Royal Mail’s website in order to untangle them.

How to make a claim

Of course, simply knowing how much you’re entitled to isn’t enough; you’ll also need to actually put in a claim. In the case of the Royal Mail, you’ll need to provide them with some key information about your situation, including the circumstances of your package (has it been lost, damaged, or delayed?)

A key piece of information is the address of both the sending and receiving party. You’ll also need to provide the total you paid for the service. If you’ve opted for special recorded delivery, you’ll have been provided with a unique reference number. This will help to expedite matters, as it’ll make it that much easier to track down the details of the package in the Royal Mail database.

If your parcel has been unacceptably delayed, then you’ll need to give the Royal Mail two separate dates: the date of postage, and the date of receipt. If the gap between the two is sufficiently long, then you’ll be entitled to compensation. If the package never arrives, then you’ll need to provide proof of postage and a description of the package and its monetary value. In the case of a damaged item, you’ll need to give it back to the mail for inspection, along with the package it was shipped in.

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From the date of postage, you’ll have eighty days to make a claim with the Royal Mail. Consequential losses are those which occur because the package didn’t arrive on time. So, if you’re running a bar and your order of beer-taps was delayed, you’ll be able to claim for lost custom. The upper limit for such claims will depend on the shipping company you’re using, but it’ll.

How to avoid problems?

By far the most common cause of problems is inaccurate or illegible address information. An address lookup service will help your customers to avoid costly mistypes, and save everyone involved time and money. Similarly, an address data cleansing program will help to run through your database and identify and eliminate errors.

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