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What happens if a parcel goes missing?
What happens if an item goes missing while it's on its way to the buyer?By Trust and Safety 13 October 2023
Lost goods in the mail - whose responsibility is it to sort?
Millions of parcels are sent around Aotearoa every year – and most of them are delivered on time. But what if the item is sent, but not delivered?
Generally, the seller is responsible for making sure the goods are delivered to the buyer.
What should the buyer do?
If the goods haven't arrived:
- Check your purchase details to make sure the correct delivery address was used.
- Check the tracking info to see if a delivery attempt was made. The courier might take the parcel back to the depot if they couldn't deliver it safely.
- If the goods haven't been sent, or the courier hasn't tried to deliver the item, contact the seller.
If the parcel goes missing after it's been delivered
It's always a good idea to check the GPS location tracking info to make sure it's been delivered to the correct address. If it's been delivered to the wrong place, the seller should file a claim with the courier.
Sadly, parcels sometimes get stolen after they've been successfully delivered. Once delivered successfully or signed for, the item is no longer the seller's responsibility.
If this has happened to you, file a police report and contact your insurance company.
What should the seller do?
The buyer shouldn't be left out of pocket if their item doesn't arrive. Bear in mind that this is only general advice and that every situation is different.
1. Contact the courier provider
If the buyer lets you know the item hasn't arrived, raise an enquiry with the courier right away. They'll be able to investigate and find out why the item hasn't been delivered.
2. Refund the buyer, or send a replacement
If the courier can't sort out the issue quickly, it's best to send the buyer a replacement item, or give them a full refund.
If the courier finds the item, you can have it returned to you. If they can't find it, they'll generally be able to reimburse you. Check their conditions of carriage for any limits and exclusions.
Why is it the seller's responsibility?
In most cases, the seller is the one who sends the item, so there's an agreement between the seller and the courier to deliver the item to the buyer. That means if the courier hasn't delivered the item, the dispute is between the seller and the courier.
If the courier is responsible for the parcel going missing, the seller must refund the buyer and work out their claim with the courier.
With that said, there might be some cases where the buyer pays for and arranges their own shipping. In these cases, the goods are considered to be in the buyer's possession once the person acting on their behalf (the courier or a friend) picks up the item from the seller.
What if the buyer is lying?
This is pretty rare, but can happen from time to time.
This can be prevented by only sending items in a tracked parcel, with signature required on delivery.
If the buyer says the item hasn't arrived, always check the tracking info to see whether it's been marked as delivered. Most courier companies will include a GPS delivery location, so check that too.