Problems with the post - this is what they can look like
Parcel deliveries and problems with the post
While prices for parcel delivery are rising, the quality of service is in danger of being overturned. An analysis of the problems.
Sent but not delivered
If you've ever waited eagerly for a parcel and ended up finding that the delivery person left without ringing the bell, or if your parcel was delivered unreasonably late or even lost, you're certainly not the only one. There have been so many reports of problems with parcel delivery that a more detailed investigation was finally required, from which quite a few conspicuous results emerged.
This article examines the following using the Australian shipping landscape:
- The study
- The Australia Post guidelines
- Typical problems with parcel deliveries
- Why parcels are not delivered
- What to do about it
Last July, a representative group of 1,025 Australians were surveyed about their experiences with parcel deliveries. Among the 643 respondents who had parcels delivered (via various delivery companies) in the previous 12 months, more than half had experienced problems.
Top of the list of problems was the odd situation where a delivery notification card was left even though someone was home at the time of delivery - almost one in four people (24%) had been affected. Other problems included unreasonable delays (23 %), lost or undelivered parcels (14 %) or parcels left in an unsafe position (11 %) or delivered in a damaged condition.
These problems were not unique to Australia Post (other parcel delivery services were also complained about), but it is clear that Australia Post is the main service provider in this area (although this situation will gradually change due to increased competition).
The Australia Post parcel delivery policy
Each week, Australia Post delivers approximately 60 million postal items to over 11 million addresses. Under the Australian Postal Services Act 1989, Australia Post is required to provide a letter post service that is also protected from competition. The current mandated standards require this service to be available to 98% of addresses each working day. But unlike the letter post service (whose prices and delivery times are also regulated), Australia Post's parcel delivery service operates in a competitive environment and is not subject to the same regulation.
Current estimated delivery times from Australia Post vary from two to six days, depending on the parcel's starting point and destination. As these times are estimated, Australia's Consumer Protection Act requires delivery within a reasonable time.
Australia Post is downplaying the problems with its service. A spokesperson said, "There has been no reduction in service at Australia Post. Our parcel network continues to deliver more than 95% of all parcels on time or even earlier than expected." But although parcel prices have continued to rise, the number of timely deliveries has fallen from 97.8% in 2013/14 (the company's target was actually 96%) to the 95% that Australia Post claims to achieve. Despite this, Australia Post's 95% figure appears to be reasonable. One explanation for the difference between customers' experiences and these statistics could be the counting method for timely deliveries, which could increase the numbers of timely deliveries by not attempting deliveries (leaving notification cards without ringing the bell, as described above), because according to Australia Post's terms and conditions, a parcel is considered "delivered" as soon as it is handed over to the recipient or, if this is not possible, a card is left stating that the parcel is available for collection.
Under the national "knock and call" process, the postman and driver must knock on the customer's door three times before leaving a card. Even if Australia Post is not subject to a specific legal requirement to deliver mail directly to the door, there is a general requirement to do so in Australia Post's guidelines. A spokesperson for Australia Post confirmed that the "knock and call" procedure means that "our postmen and drivers must knock three times on our customers' doors before leaving a card."
In addition, under Australia Post's policy, parcels may be left at "secure parcel drops for those who are not at home during the day, provided there is a secure place to do so." What is considered "safe" can, of course, vary. Accordingly, parcels may be left in more insecure, unsuitable locations.
Australia Post's own picture of service quality differs not only from our research, but also from findings in the latest annual report of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, a kind of review body for the postal industry, among others. In 2014/15, 5,613 complaints about Australia Post were made to the Postal Industry Ombudsman (5,351 actually resulted from Australia Post's actions). This represents a 38% increase on the previous year. This increase is no exception: The number of complaints to Ombudsman for the Postal Industry has grown steadily since the office was established in 2006 - almost tripling. The main complaints about Australia Post are about lost letters or parcels and delivery problems (e.g. no attempt to make a delivery or a wrong approach to secure parcel deposits), which account for 31% and 27% of all complaints respectively.
It is difficult to compare these statistics with other service providers as Australia Post is the only mandatory member of the Commonwealth Ombudsman for the postal industry. However, there are six voluntary members who received a total of 16 complaints in 2014/15 - a 60% increase on the previous year.
Delivery card problems
Failure to deliver is not a new problem, to be sure. It was first investigated by Ombudsman for the Postal Industry in 2008 (who admitted at the time that it was nothing new) when he saw a dramatic increase in complaints about notification cards. Australia Postw as advised that it should review its approach to notification cards and the instructions given to suppliers.
In response, Australia Post implemented a nationwide communication program for its parcel delivery contractors. The program is to remind suppliers that the service should "go to the door" and no notification cards should be left "unless a delivery is attempted by going directly to the address and it is determined that no one was present at home to collect the item to be delivered". Australia Post also added that "where appropriate, contractual provisions may be invoked in respect of a failure to perform. Depending on the nature of the non-performance, this may include formal warnings or breach notices."
Despite these measures, the problem has not been solved. Since 2008, there has been a substantial increase in complaints about deliveries and notification cards. There has also been an overall increase in the number of complaints. Despite this, "the ratio of complaints about delivery issues, such as cards, secure parcel deposits and signatures, has remained relatively the same," the postal industry watchdog said.
So why are parcels not being delivered?
That a quarter of survey respondents who had received parcels had experienced a failure to deliver is a surprising figure - as is the similar number of unreasonable delays. Such high numbers are unlikely to be explained by individual postman actions but point to a more general problem in the system. So what's going on?
Some delivery problems could be explained by certain circumstances where the supplier does not need to attempt delivery. For example, if there is a risk of an aggressive dog (according to Australia Post, 280 dog-related incidents took place last year), or a locked gate prevents access to the house, or the delivery van would no longer be in view of the delivery person when entering the premises (which is often the case in rural areas because of longer house entrances).
Nevertheless, not all problems can be explained by this. According to an Australian Post contractor who delivered parcels for 14 years, many problems are related to the cost pressures and time constraints placed on contractors. "There are a lot of problems in the actual practice," he says. Often the final delivery contractor gets very little money and more delivery routes that are not feasible within the time window.
Both direct employees and contractors at Australia Post are represented by the Communications, Electronics and Plumbing Industries Association. Jim Metcher, New South Wales secretary for the postal and telecommunications industries, explained that all parcels under 2 kilos are delivered by Australian Post employees who are paid an hourly wage. However, any parcel over 2 kilos would be delivered by a contractor. Alternatively, the contractor could subcontract the task, adding another step to the chain of command. Contractors are paid a piece rate - the average is $1.70 to $1.90 per package, depending on the package size and geographic location, Metcher said. A subcontractor would not get that. He would probably be paid between $1.10 and $1.20 per parcel.
If this rate of pay is compared to the current rate for a prepaid 3 kilo parcel bag, which is $13.80, the difference becomes clear. On average, contractors deliver between 200 and 300 packages per day, Metcher said. To be sure, the hours depend on the size of the district in which the contractor works and the traffic. But if a parcel delivery contractor has to deliver 250 parcels in eight hours, he has less than two minutes for each parcel delivery. Added to this are factors such as traffic and parking. It is therefore obvious why parcel delivery contractors might want to shorten the process.
The dramatic change in the postal industry, the transition from letters to parcels, has no doubt put pressure on Australia Post. Australia Post's reserved letters division lost a whopping $283 million last year. The profit-making parcels division has since struggled to cover these losses, but this has certainly contributed to the fact that parcel price increases have not led to any improvement in performance.
What can and must be done?
None of this, however, offers a solution to the frustration of non-delivery or a delayed or lost parcel.
Thanks to today's technology, it is much easier to track delivery drivers. According to Australia Post, every complaint is investigated. Therefore, if you experience problems with non-deliveries or significant delays, it is worth making a complaint (social media channels are a good way to get a quick result).
If parcels are lost or damaged, you may have a right to compensation. Even if a parcel was not sent by registered mail or with additional cover (which offer different amounts of compensation), normal parcels may also be eligible for compensation (according to Australia Post, compensation of up to $50 and a refund of postage costs is possible).
Alternative Australia Post delivery options
Australia Post already offers some alternative delivery options for parcels. And as more parcel companies (offering overnight delivery or kiosk pick-ups, for example) enter the market, Australia Post's offerings are expected to become increasingly innovative. Currently, Australia Post users who sign up for a MyPost account can use a number of alternatives to the traditional 'to the door' service. These other options include
- Parcel Stations: You can collect your parcel from one of the many parcel lockers at various locations and within 48 hours around the clock .
- Parcel collection: With a parcel collection address, you can send your parcel directly to a post office from where it can be collected .
- Secure deposit: If you don't absolutely have to sign for your parcel, you can choose to have your parcel left in a secure place. Note, however, that it could be difficult for you to claim non-delivery if the parcel is lost.
Night deliveries are now being trialled at Australia Post. While this increases the likelihood that you will be home at the time of delivery, it certainly does not reduce the pressure on the postman. The future will show whether night deliveries can eliminate the problems or not.
By the way: freshly published, you can also get an up-to-date picture of the German mail order landscape with the new Parcel Study by parcelLab in cooperation with the BVOH!
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