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Customer complaints: How to fix delivery problems

Step-by-step advice for sellers on what to do if a customer complains about a parcel damaged or delayed by a courier or other delivery service. Plus pick up tips on how to reduce this risk.

It’s a common problem. You use a delivery service to ship a product to a customer. It’s in good condition when you pack it. But once it arrives, the customer says it’s been damaged in transit.

What to do?

As a seller, it’s your responsibility under the Consumer Guarantees Act to make sure deliveries arrive in good condition and at the agreed time. But this extra step between seller and buyer increases the risk of damage.

In a 2016 survey, Consumer Protection found 55 per cent of New Zealanders experienced a problem with a product or service in the past two years — 20 per cent said their most recent problem was the delay or non-delivery of a product or service.

Consumer problems caused by suppliers (external link) — Consumer Protection

Steps to follow 

Here’s what to do if a customer makes this complaint.

  1. Don’t tell your customer to take it up with the delivery company — they came to you, so you have to deal with it.
  2. Ask the customer to describe and/or show you the damage. Check other details, eg any damage to packaging, where the parcel was left.
  3. Check if the product was in acceptable condition when packed, and if it was properly packaged.
  4. Ask the delivery company if anything went wrong.
  5. If it is a valid complaint, offer your customer a replacement or refund.
  6. Make your own complaint to the delivery company — or your insurance company — so you’re not left out of pocket. If this proves tricky, you may be able to make a claim against the delivery company under the Contract and Commercial Law Act, which has replaced the Carriage of Goods Act.

Providing remedies for faulty products (external link) — Consumer Protection

Contract and Commercial Law Act

You may be able to claim compensation under this Act if deliveries to your customers are damaged or delayed by your courier or other delivery service — but it does not apply to postal services.

It’s a good idea to have a written contract with your delivery service. Together you must discuss and agree terms for when — or if — compensation will be paid for damaged or delayed packages. If you don’t have a written contract, you can still ask for compensation.

The Act does not apply for:

  • damage due to a product fault
  • damage due to inadequate packaging
  • parcel seized from the delivery service by the Police or NZ Customs.

Contract and Commercial Law Act

Note: The Contract and Commercial Law Act came into effect on 1 September 2017.  It covers rules previously in a number of Acts,  including the Carriage of Goods Act.

How to reduce this risk

  1. Test different packaging methods and materials. The aim is to minimise breakages without spending a fortune on packaging.
  2. If you or your workers do the deliveries, check how vehicles are loaded as well as the delivery itself.
  3. If you use a delivery service, check their terms and conditions. Make sure you know who is liable for any breakages.
  4. It’s a good idea to forge strong relationships with your delivery service. If something goes wrong, they should want to take steps to prevent it happening again — otherwise they risk losing your business.

Useful tips and templates

Use our new templates so you, your staff and your customers know how complaints will be handled. You can print these out or edit the PDFs on your computer or smartphone.

Complaint record form [PDF, 929 KB]

Complaints process checklist [PDF, 563 KB]

Our new section on customer complaints is packed with advice on what to do if someone complains in person or on social media — and when it’s OK to turn down a complaint.

You’ll also find tips on:

  • fair returns policies
  • training staff to handle complaints
  • clear and legally safe contracts or sales agreements
  • analysing complaints data
  • privacy rules.

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