Online shoppers urged to insure costly packagesUnderstand your rights if post is lost or damaged

20 December 2010

Royal mail

Using special delivery will protect you if items get lost

As the weather becomes increasingly harsh and last-minute Christmas crowds descend on Britain’s high streets, many shoppers are choosing to stay indoors and do their Christmas shopping from the comfort of the sofa. But are the goods you buy online protected if they are damaged, or lost altogether, in the post? And what about the gifts you send to far-away family and friends?

This Christmas, Royal Mail estimates that 2 billion letters, parcels and packages will be sent. Of this figure, some are likely to be lost or damaged – and in addition, Royal Mail estimates that 1 in 10 postal items are labelled with an incorrect post code or address, resulting in non delivery or delay.

Insuring post and parcels

When using Royal Mail, it’s important to bear in mind that if you don’t take out insurance on something you are sending, you can only claim a very small amount of money for lost or damaged mail. Fortunately, Royal Mail offers a variety of insurance options.

When sending something of value, be sure that the insurance you have purchased will cover the cost of the item you’re sending. Alternatively, if you are sending a gift through a provider such as DHL, they will be responsible for any loss or damage to your item - so there is no need to take out added insurance.

What about insurance for online shopping deliveries?

While you can ensure that parcels and letters you send other people through the post will be covered in the event of loss or damage, it is not usually your responsibility to insure goods that are being sent to you.

If you receive an item from an online retailer or catalogue that has been damaged, you have the right to return the item within a ‘reasonable period of time’ (usually about 30 days) and get an exchange or refund. You also have the right to reject the goods altogether under the Distance Selling Regulations (2000), which you can read more about in our guide.

If you never receive your item, the retailer should replace it free of charge or fully refund your money.

Be aware that many online stores, such as Amazon, use courier services like HDNL to dispatch goods. HDNL are authorised to leave your package with a neighbour two doors either side, or directly across the road from you, if you aren’t in when they try to deliver. Therefore, if you’re waiting for an item that has not arrived, be sure to check with your provider as to where your package was delivered and ask who signed for it.

Buying goods from eBay

If you are purchasing goods from eBay, it’s a good idea to use PayPal when completing your transaction. Unfortunately, fraud is possible on eBay and there are unscrupulous individuals who will sell poor quality or counterfeit goods, or will not send items through the post at all once they have been paid for.

If you do not take precautions such as using PayPal, you could find yourself locked in a lengthy payment dispute with little remedy available. However, be aware that not every item can be insured with PayPal - so be certain you are buying from a trusted source, and that you are aware of your rights under PayPal Regulations.

Wherever ever you choose to buy your gifts from this Christmas, be sure to keep receipts, take note of shipping and tracking details, and make sure you insure expensive goods before posting them.

pound coins

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