More than 5 million people lost or stolen a package last year, according to Citizens Advice, which called on the government to start imposing fines on companies that continue to lose deliveries as part of a complete overhaul of the industry .
Currently only Royal Mail faces fines for poor service, but the charity said the same penalties should apply across the industry, after surveys showed customers had encountered a series delivery problems. Ten packages have been lost or stolen in every minute over the past 12 months, he said.
Citizens Advice said up to 20 million people – 38% of all UK adults – received a ‘Sorry, you were away’ card last year, while at home at the time. He said short-run couriers left packages in insecure places such as door sills and trash cans rather than waiting a few extra seconds for the door to open.
The problem, which particularly affects the elderly and disabled and those with young children, is in part due to unrealistic delivery schedules imposed on drivers by parcel companies, he added.
The fiercely competitive industry had a bad reputation for service even before the pandemic, and the surge in online shopping that followed left many businesses struggling to cope. Consumers can pay as little as £ 3.67 for door-to-door parcel delivery, with major retailers paying even less.
In November, Citizens Advice said complaints about the industry had tripled since the start of the pandemic.
Matthew Upton, director of policy for the charity, said: “When it comes to package deliveries, the power of choice is in the hands of retailers, not those who receive the packages. So when we find our packages under a bush or behind our trash cans, it’s easy to blame the hard-working individual drivers. But the reality is that these failures are built into the system. “
Upton said a combination of “overworked drivers, no means of compensation and no penalties for poor service” meant a significant lack of protection for consumers.
Citizens Advice said Ofcom should have the power to extend sanctions to all delivery companies to ensure they take the appropriate steps to keep packages safe, and that there should be better redress systems for consumers whose packages have gone missing.
He found that one in three consumers who had encountered a problem with a delivery in the past 12 months said they hadn’t complained because they didn’t think it would make a difference.
The association also called for better employment protections for drivers.
A driver described being hired and said the job involved making 80 deliveries a day. However, once it started, the workload quickly climbed to unrealistic 180 per day. This left him less than two minutes to deliver each package.
“Tackling the sheer pressure of drivers and holding companies to account is the real way to improve this essential service for the millions of people who depend on it,” said Upton.