If you accept a neighbour’s parcel, could you be signing away their consumer rights and even get sued yourself? The international parcel broker ParcelHero warns Good Samaritan neighbours to think before they sign.
As home shopping soars by 19% many of us find ourselves taking in neighbour’s parcels. But could being good neighbours harm shopper’s chances of a refund on damaged goods; and could we find ourselves sued if things go wrong? The parcel price-comparison experts ParcelHero warns signing for someone else’s parcels can lead to a legal pass-the-parcel to decide who’s responsible.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘There’s little more annoying than getting a card saying you missed your delivery and you’ll have to travel miles to a depot that shuts at midday. Many of us are relieved when neighbours sign for our deliveries, and happily do the same for them. But what happens if that parcel is damaged or goes missing? ParcelHero’s new guide for buyers and their neighbours reveals signing for parcels raises some thorny issues.’
Says David: ‘This year alone one elderly person was threatened with prosecution after accepting a parcel for next door which was then stolen in a burglary; and in another case the retailer even tried to get the buyer to call the police over a neighbour who denied signing for a parcel.’
Explains David: ‘Sellers will argue that goods are their responsibility while they are in transit, until signed for by the buyer or their neighbour. Ideally, therefore, we, and our neighbours, should always check parcels before signing to ensure the contents are intact. In practice, few have the time to check the contents of every package. But, if the package looks in any way damaged, it really is best to refuse acceptance, or at the very least write ‘arrived damaged’ when you accept.’
If the courier has left an item with a neighbour without your permission – even if signed for – you can argue that, by leaving them at a different address, they are still undelivered, and still the responsibility of the seller or courier.
But things are trickier if you gave the seller or courier permission to deliver to a specific neighbour, or are part of Royal Mail’s Delivery to Neighbour scheme, and have nominated a neighbour.
Reveals David: ‘The seller or courier will argue they are not responsible if something goes wrong once the item is accepted by a named neighbour – just as if you took delivery yourself. When Royal Mail introduced its Delivery to Neighbour scheme its former watchdog, Consumer Focus, tried to get it to agree that liability to pay compensation for lost and/or damaged items remains with Royal Mail notwithstanding that the item is delivered to a neighbour. But in practice this is a grey area indeed.’
Says David: ‘In this case let’s hope the delivery is of goods bought online, as you will still be able to return them within 14 days under the Consumer Contracts Regulations; no matter who signed.’
And David adds even if your neighbour has signed for an item, they haven’t waved away all your consumer rights. It may make any claim smoother to highlight a damaged package at the time; but it is not an absolute legal necessity.
But what happens if the parcel is damaged or goes missing after your neighbour has signed for it? Earlier this year an elderly gent signed for a neighbour’s delivery. He later went out and while he was out this kindly neighbour was burgled; including the package.
Could the neighbour be held responsible? The seller argued that the neighbour failed in their duty of care, because they signed for the parcel but failed to keep it entirely secure. David says: ‘You know the saying: no good deed goes unpunished! The neighbour’s insurance also argued because it wasn’t his property, the goods were not covered. So they were not about to pay up either.
‘But legal experts say that looking after someone’s property for them means you are under a duty to take reasonable care of the property; but the risk of loss or damage stays with the owner.’
So much for kindly neighbours, what about less saintly ones? What happens if your neighbour flatly denies they ever received and signed for your parcel– even though the courier has a signature?
In this case the answer is quite clear cut, reveals David. ‘Providing no permission was given to deliver to this particular neighbour, no matter if they flatly deny ever signing, or claims they later left it on your doormat, the retailer must send you a new item.’
Sighs David: ‘Signing for parcels can be a pain, particularly if you have taken-in large items for neighbours who then take days getting around to collecting them. Add to this the threat of legal responsibility and a few of us will be politely turning away couriers in the future.’
But can we refuse delivery? David explains: ‘You’re fully within your rights to refuse delivery of any parcel a driver tries to talk you into accepting for a neighbour. It is also possible to opt out of the Royal Mail’s Delivery to Neighbour scheme. You’ll need to display a sticker in your window that says you don’t accept neighbours’ mail, and that also means your neighbours won’t be given your mail. That sticker in your window might not make you the most popular person in your street though – and it is not possible to opt out without displaying it prominently!’
Concludes David: ‘”Neighbours should be there for one another”, to quote a well-known theme, but over the issue of parcel deliveries even good neighbours can fall out. If you do decide to sign for a neighbour, ensure, at the very least, that the package doesn’t look damaged before you sign; that you make a note if it is damaged and that you put the parcel in a safe place until they arrive to collect it. That way good neighbours become good friends.’