The problem of having your parcels signed for by a neighbour

The problem of having your parcels signed for by a neighbour – words Al Woods

It’s both inconvenient and irritating to miss the delivery of a parcel that you’ve been expecting.

Rather than going to the depot to collect your parcel, many people give instructions to the home delivery service to deliver to a neighbour instead. We all want to look out for each other, don’t we? And what could possibly go wrong?

I spoke to Rand Logistics to understand the implications of a neighbour signing for your delivery. Far from being the answer to your problems, leaving a parcel with your neighbour could potentially harm your chances of a refund or compensation on damaged goods and inadvertently put your neighbour in danger of being sued if something goes wrong with a parcel in their care. It can all get horribly messy.


Checking the parcel

Both the retailer and the courier are likely to argue that a signed for delivery service means that the parcel was received in good condition. In an ideal world, the contents of a parcel should always be checked by whoever is asked to sign for its delivery since this is the point where the shipper will claim that responsibility for the item transfers from the seller and their courier to the customer.

In the real world, however, does anyone really have time to do this? Certainly, the courier who has hundreds of deliveries to make won’t want to wait around for you to open the parcel. So, what should you (or your neighbour) do?

  • While adding ‘unchecked’ next to your signature has no legal standing, it could well smooth the process with the courier’s or seller’s claims department in case of a problem.
  • If the package looks at all suspicious and you think the contents may be damaged, do insist that you take a look inside.
  • If the parcel is damaged you can refuse acceptance, ideally while taking a photo of the damaged parcel and contents before you reject it.
  • If you choose to accept delivery even though you suspect that the contents might be damaged, at the very least write ‘arrived damaged’ when you sign. Insurance companies will look for proof that the damage occurred before the item was delivered to you.

What if a parcel is signed for unchecked?

If a neighbour has agreed to be your nominated neighbour and signs for a delivery without checking the contents and you later want to bring a claim for damaged goods, you could run into problems. The seller or courier can argue that they are not responsible if something goes wrong once the item has been accepted (by your neighbour) and may be reluctant to replace or refund.

Always check the fine print – some couriers may claim that if a damaged item has had its packaging removed, or was moved from the original delivery address (which could be your neighbour’s), it is no longer the responsibility of the courier as it could have been damaged after delivery.

However, if the item was left with a neighbour without your express permission, the shoe is on the other foot. Even if the goods were accepted by your kindly neighbour but turn out to be damaged, or they are lost or stolen before they reach you, you can argue that they were not delivered to the specified address and that the company is therefore in breach of contract. Technically, by giving your parcel to a neighbour without your authority, it could be considered as undelivered and therefore remain the responsibility of the seller or courier.

What if your neighbour denies that the parcel was delivered?

Unfortunately, not all neighbours are friendly and helpful. Imagine the situation if an online purchase is delivered to a neighbour without your permission and your neighbour flatly denies signing for it or receiving it. What can you do?

Luckily, this is quite a straightforward case. Provided that you did not give authority for the item to be delivered to the neighbour in question, or even if the neighbour claims to have left it outside your door, if you have not received it, the seller must send a replacement. While you may have to stand your ground and insist on your rights when you make a claim, the law is actually quite clear on this point.

Can you stop couriers delivering your parcels to your neighbours?

It is, of course, possible to avoid the situation altogether if you’re worried about any of the above. As a customer of a parcel delivery company, you can stipulate in the delivery instructions that no parcel should be left with a neighbour.

However, don’t forget that most couriers will perform a maximum of 3 delivery attempts after which you will need to collect the items yourself either from the depot or a drop-off point. Finding an overnight courier service can be difficult, but once you find the perfect one, i’m sure you won’t leave it for a long time.

The problem of having your parcels signed for by a neighbour – words Al Woods


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