Australia Post and its StarTrack subsidiary will repay about 11,000 customers $2.9 million in compensation for lost or damaged packages after previously fobbing off their complaints over a four-year period.
Th Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has secured a court-enforceable undertaking from the delivery service providers after they admitted that they likely engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct when they failed to accept compensation requests from customers.
In some instances, the ACCC says they incorrectly advised some business customers that no compensation was payable to them for articles lost or damaged between 26 October 2018 and 31 October 2022.
The ACCC says during this period about 10,500 business contract customers were affected, along with fewer than 1,000 recipients of StarTrack deliveries.
The $2.9 million payout agreement comes on the heels of an ACCC investigation after Australia Post self-reported its conduct to the consumer watchdog in May this year.
The ACCC says that under Australian Consumer Law, consumers can request a remedy if a product is not of acceptable quality or a service is not performed with due care and skill, fit for purpose or supplied within a reasonable time.
It says the law exempts certain transport services for the purpose of a business, but in October 2018 that exemption was amended to apply consumer guarantee rights to the transport of goods to a recipient who is not carrying on a business.
The ACCC found that Australia Post Group failed to apply the amended exemption correctly, and on that basis did not accept claims from businesses which had articles lost or damaged in transit.
“The failure by Australia Post Group to provide business customers with the remedies they were entitled to is extremely concerning, but we acknowledge that Australia Post self-reported this conduct to the ACCC,” says ACCC commissioner Liza Carver.
“We are pleased that Australia Post Group has undertaken to provide compensation for this error and to put systems in place to ensure similar errors are not made in the future.
“Business contract customers who sent goods to customers without a business purpose which were lost or damaged in transit with the Australia Post Group have been entitled, and continue to be entitled, to consumer guarantee rights.”
Business contract customers will be able to claim the cost of postage plus interest while those affected by StarTrack deliveries can claim an amount for the value of goods lost or damaged, plus interest.
In the undertaking, Australia Post has also committed to implementing a compliance program, including staff training and informing the ACCC about the progress of the compensation program.
Meanwhile, the ACCC has warned customers receiving compensation payments to be aware of scammers who are currently calling people and falsely claiming they can help them get a refund.
It says many business customers will automatically receive compensation while the respective Australia Post and StarTrack websites will also feature a claims portal through which to lodge a claim.
“Australia Post Group will not provide clickable links or phone numbers and will not ask for email or text message responses, as these are methods that are frequently used by scammers,” says the ACCC.
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