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Securing your mail

Consumer Council
Saturday, June 17, 2017

DISTANCE, time and money force people to engage the services of postal or courier companies for sending and receiving parcels from abroad.

People rely on postal service providers to transport their items safely to the intended recipient particularly when they fork out extra money to secure their mail.

Most consumers opt for registered mail when sending parcels overseas which simply means paying more for the parcel to ensure it reaches its destination safely. A track code is provided to consumers allowing them to keep track of their parcel until it reaches its destination.

Despite paying more money to secure the parcels, they are still at the risk of getting lost or displaced at the hands of the service providers. Consumers lose their valuables because their registered mails/parcels fail to reach the recipient even with constant tracking.

When registered mail/parcels do not reach their destinations, consumers wonder why did they pay extra and who should be held responsible for their loss.

Is it the local service provider who dispatched the parcel or the overseas service provider who is expected to deliver?

Now if the overseas service provider is at fault then who should provide redress for the lost items.

Recently, the Council handled a complaint where a consumer had sent four passports via registered mail to Canada. This mail did reach Canada, but not the recipient.

Samuel and his wife who reside in Canada wanted their Fijian passports renewed as it was about to expire. Samuel sent the old passports to his father in Fiji for renewal. After renewal, the passports were to be sent back to Samuel via registered mail.

Samuel's father quickly contacted the Fijian Immigration Department for two new passports for his son Samuel and his daughter-in-law. After receiving the new passports, he decided to send a registered parcel with the new and old passports back to Canada. In December 2016, he sent a registered parcel from Suva to Canada. The total cost incurred for passport renewal and for courier was about $F$300.

The registered mail was to reach Samuel within two - three weeks' time. Unfortunately, weeks turned into months, but the passports did not reach Samuel.

A concerned Samuel contacted his father to check with Post Fiji regarding the lost registered parcel.

According to the tracking number, the parcel had reached Canada which Samuel did not receive. Samuel's father went to Post Fiji to ascertain the whereabouts of the registered post.

After much hassle, Post Fiji informed Samuel's father that the parcel had gone missing by the Canada Post which was confirmed through a correspondence between Post Fiji and Canada Post.

When the same message was relayed to Samuel, he got his father to lodge a complaint with the council for redress because the parcel contained valuable documents such as passports which he needed urgently.

The council immediately contacted Post Fiji for compensation so that new passports can be made after following the protocol for the lost passports. Post Fiji sought clarification from Canada Post on compensating the complainant in a timely manner as the parcel went missing from their custody.

The Canada Post agreed to provide redress based on the Universal Postal Union (UPU) Regulations on insurance and compensation claim for loss of registered article.

According to this Regulation, Samuel was offered 30 SDR (Special Drawing Right) as the compensation amount which is about $F$70. This meager sum did not even cover the cost of passport renewal and the cost of registered mail. Without taking into consideration Samuel's dad's travelling and telephone costs.

Now Samuel has to incur more costs in terms of money and time to obtain replacement passports. For the replacement of a lost but valid Fiji passport, consumers have to fill in a form, provide original birth certificate, a police report, statutory declaration form, valid photo identification card with the payment of $F180.

In Samuel's case, the cost which he will incur in getting replacement passports done will be much more than what the authorities are offering him in compensation.

The council finds Samuel's case regrettable but what more can be done when international laws are old and archaic.

In light of this case, the council will alert Consumers International (the world confederation of consumer group with over 240 member organisations in 120 countries) to seek changes to such laws.

In the meantime, Samuel can seek redress in Canada and put a new application for replacement passports.

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