One in ten people have had a parcel lost or stolen in the last year – equivalent to 5.5million people – new research claims.
Another two in five say they’ve received a ‘sorry you were out’ card despite being home, resulting in some parcels being left in insecure places like doorsteps and bins, according to data from Citizens Advice.
The charity is calling for fines for delivery companies after warning the way parcels are delivered is not fit for purpose.
This comes as it detects links between worrying pressure on drivers to meet targets and poor service.
One in ten people have had a parcel lost or stolen in the last year, Citizens Advice said
It found that in a single week, almost 7million people experienced a parcel issue related to driver pressure.
This includes drivers leaving before the customer could get to the door or leaving the parcel in an insecure place like a doorstep or bin.
Almost three million people also missed a parcel because they didn’t have time to get to the door.
This figure rises to 8 per cent for people who are disabled or have a long term health condition and 9 per cent of parents with young children.
Despite these high figures, the majority of delivery companies receive no penalty for lost or stolen deliveries.
Currently only Royal Mail is subject to fines if this happens, despite 58 per cent of parcels being delivered by other companies.
Charlotte, a quadruple amputee, is heavily reliant on delivery services, but drivers often ignore her pleas meaning parcels are left in inaccessible and insecure places.
She says as a result she has to call one of her children to come round and pick up the parcel for her, inconveniencing them both.
She said: ‘I have a sign on my front door asking for deliveries to be left in a specific place I can access, but nine times out of ten it’s ignored and my parcels are left in completely inaccessible places.’
Many delivery drivers do not have much time to handover a parcel due to high targets
The charity is also warning of a link between poor customer service and heavy pressure on delivery drivers.
High targets and short time frames as well as insecure working conditions mean many drivers struggle to provide a satisfactory level of service.
Jake, 28, worked as a self-employed contractor for a delivery company to earn extra money when he found out he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby.
In the advert, he was told he would need to deliver 80 parcels a day but this expectation quickly rose to 180. This gave him less than two minutes for each parcel.
Jake said this meant it was impossible to help customers with their access needs.
He said: ‘I often felt like a kid playing knock down ginger. It was awful that I didn’t have time to wait.
‘I’d deliver parcels to older people and couldn’t even help them put the package inside when they needed extra support.’
Matthew Upton, director of policy, said: ‘Poor service shouldn’t be accepted as part and parcel of the delivery market. It’s clear that the current system isn’t working for drivers and consumers alike.
‘As key workers, delivery drivers have become familiar faces for lots of us. During the lockdowns they helped us receive gifts from loved ones, clothing for growing children, and in some cases vital medicine for those unable to leave the house.
‘It’s easy to lay the blame at the door of individual hard-working drivers. But the reality is that these failings are baked into the system.
‘Addressing the unsustainable pressure that drivers are under and holding companies to account is the real way to improve this essential service for the millions of people who rely on it.’
Despite high figures, most delivery companies receive no penalty for lost or stolen deliveries
Citizens Advice calls for end-to-end overhaul for the parcels market
The charity has outlined what it believes should be done to stop the issues people are currently encountering with the delivery system.
1. All delivery firms should face penalties for losing parcels: Currently, only Royal Mail faces a fine if a parcel is lost or stolen.
It says Ofcom should extend penalties to all delivery firms to make sure that they take appropriate measures to keep mail safe.
2. It should be easier for consumers to get compensation for late or lost deliveries: Redress systems are complicated. Some 88 per cent of people said they found help difficult to access.
Citizens Advice says Ofcom should extend consumer protection rules to cover all delivery companies, not just Royal Mail. This would mean all consumers received the same level of service if something goes wrong
3. Drivers need better protections: Drivers’ employment conditions are often insecure, with unstable incomes and unpredictable working hours. These can lead to poor practices like leaving before consumers get to the door.
It said the remit of the newly announced Single Enforcement Body should be widened to include the power to determine working status which would make sure all drivers are on the most appropriate employment contract.
‘My parcel was left in a bin and was thrown away’
This is Money previously reported on a customer whose parcel was thrown away without her knowledge after the delivery driver left it in a bin.
Hermes, the delivery firm, did not leave a card to say where it had been left and it was only when the customer clicked on the email that she saw a picture of her bin had been used to describe where the parcel had been left.
Unfortunately, Hermes confirmed it no longer uses ‘calling cards’ making it even more difficult for customers to know where their parcel has been left.
Whilst many say they will leave it in a safe place, clearly a bin is not one of those.
Another customer was frustrated after her parcel was left in a communal hallway in her block of flats after her neighbours refused to take it in.
Subsequently, it was stolen and both the delivery company and the retailer refused to give her a refund at first before the retailer relented.
So whose responsibility is it?
Ultimately, a consumer contract is with the retailer so it’s their responsibility to get deliveries to you.
However, for those who do give permission for their delivery to be left in a specified safe place or received by a nominated neighbour and something goes wrong, they will still be considered to have received the delivery.
The first thing to do if there is a problem is contact the companies customer services team.
If the response is not good enough or what you hoped, you will need to escalate your complaint to a manager responsible for complaints.
In the scenario your complaint still can’t be resolved, you can ask the independent postal redress scheme (POSTRS) to investigate your case.
Only regulated postal operators are covered by this scheme. Non-regulated mail services are sometimes covered, provided both the company and customer agree to use the service voluntarily.
If you’re still unhappy with the response to your complaint, you’ll need to seek independent legal advice.