Who is liable when a package is lost in the mail?

Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. This week’s question comes from one of the tech wizards who entered our giveaway contest for a smartwatch. Today we will answer the following question: “who is liable when a package is lost in the mail?”

 

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A short while ago, we answered a quick question about what to do when your package is stolen.  It’s a good primer for both business owners and customers, but it doesn’t really answer the question of who exactly is at fault when a package is lost in the mail.

Let’s take a moment to discuss that. For the purposes of this article, we will be speaking to the recipient/customer and their point of view. Bear this in mind if you are the seller.

 

When Was the Package Lost in the Mail and Who’s Responsible?

First things first, you want to make sure your package is actually lost. Check the tracking information and confirm that the answer to the following three questions is “no”:

  1. Is the package still out for delivery?
  2. Did the package wind up at a neighbor’s house by mistake?
  3. Has the package been delayed because of the weather?

If the answer to all the above is “no” and the package is more than, say, four or five days late, then it’s probably lost. In fact, you may have even had your package stolen by a porch pirate.

By now, with your package well and truly lost, you’re ready to find the responsible party. So where do you turn?

As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t see any evidence to suggest otherwise, the seller or shipper is responsible. If a package is marked as delivered and you have not seen it, then the seller is responsible. The exception is that if a package is actually lost prior to being marked delivered.

 

What Can You Do About It?

Okay, so at this point, you know the seller is responsible. You will want to contact them directly first. Bear in mind that while they are responsible, they may not have actually caused your package to be lost. They are just your first point of contact.

In any case, a lot of big sellers will send you a replacement item. No big deal, easy fix. In fact, it’s become rare to see situations where this doesn’t happen.

The seller, may in turn contact the shipping company to file a claim. This is especially true if they have shipping insurance. If their packages are insured, when they file a claim for a lost one, they can be reimbursed for the loss.

Sellers may file a claim based on the carrier who delivered the package:

 

Final Thoughts

When in doubt, contact the seller. They can usually help you when your package is lost in the mail. If the carrier is truly the one at fault, the seller can often receive reimbursement through shipping insurance.

If you are the seller, remember that a small percentage of your items will inevitably be lost in the mail. Have a plan in place for dealing with situations like that so you’re not caught off-guard. When in doubt, assume as much responsibility as you can. If the costs start to add up, look into shipping insurance.

 

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