- Check your rights
- Postal operators publish information and terms & conditions covering their products or services
- Check the information and terms & conditions to make sure you have grounds for lodging a dispute
- Contact the postal operator
- Make a formal complaint via the postal operator's website, complaints phone line etc
- Give any available evidence to the postal operator
- Get a complaint reference number as proof of your complaint
- Allow 10 full business days
- Allow a full 10 business days for the postal operator to respond to your complaint
- If you do not receive a response in 10 full business days, contact the postal operator to followup
- Contact us
- If you still do not receive a response or are dissatisfied with the postal operator's response, contact the Postal Industry Ombudsman to lodge a complaint here
Most commonly, complaints to the PIO are about:
- Lost or delayed letters
- Consequential loss: for example, penalties that may occur if mail is late or lost, such as a fine for driving an unregistered vehicle.
- Lost, damaged or delayed packages
- Issues related to where parcels are left.
Other postal services
- Failure to provide a service, such as a mail redirection
- Customer service or complaint handling
- Damage to personal property (for example if a delivery contractor’s vehicle damages a fence)
- Problems with other postal services, such as Australia Post’s parcel-forwarding service, ShopMate, or its complaints-management system, MyCustomers.
Commonly, people come to the Ombudsman because:
- A postal operator has failed to provide the service it promised
- The postal operator has misrepresented its service.
Before you make a complaint to the company involved, you must to check its terms and conditions to establish whether the company failed to meet them, and if any compensation is offered.
The terms and conditions of a service describe any guarantees, liability, or compensation that may be offered by the company if its service fails.
We generally don’t find fault with postal operators who abide by their terms and conditions.
It is important to note that Australia Post cannot track standard letters through the mail stream. This is because they don’t have a barcode, or other tracking information.
Therefore, it is usually not possible to initiate a search for a standard letter, such as a bill, that has not reached its destination.
Another factor is the enormous volume of mail handled daily at depots and post offices around the country: last year Australia Post delivered more than 12 million letters every day.
If an item has a barcode, attempts can generally be made to track it.
Courier services usually have a track-and-trace system which can often provide an accurate account of an item’s location.
Check the postal operator’s terms and conditions to establish if compensation is offered.
Emmanuel arranged for a parcel to be sent to him using Australia Post’s cash-on-delivery service with Extra Cover. At the time of collection of the parcel, Emmanuel noticed that it was wrapped in a postal bag. When he opened the postal bag, the contents of the parcel fell out and he found a note explaining that the parcel had been repackaged by Australia Post because the packaging had been damaged at the delivery centre. Emmanuel then found that some of the items he was expecting to receive were missing from the parcel and he contacted Australia Post to make a claim for compensation (noting that the sender had explained to him that Australia Post staff had originally assisted with the packaging of the items). Australia Post refused Emmanuel’s claim for compensation because it believed that the items were not adequately packaged. In response to our investigation, Australia Post concluded that although the packaging did not meet Australia Post’s packaging recommendations in this instance, the packaging was processed as sufficient by the staff member who completed the postage transaction. Based on this, Australia Post agreed to compensate Emmanuel for the lost items in accordance with the Extra Cover purchased
- Check to see if the packaging complied with the postal operator’s packaging guidelines
- Take photos of the packaging and the damaged article, if possible. Keep all the packaging
- Report the damage to the company involved as soon as possible.
We may be able to investigate a complaint if:
- Compensation within the limits offered by the company’s terms and conditions has been refused without explanation
- The postal operator refuses compensation on the basis of inadequate packaging, despite the packaging complying with the guidelines supplied.
Common reasons items are damaged in the mail include:
- The item being too fragile to post safely
- The packaging being insufficient to protect the item against the normal stresses of mail handling
- Accidental damage during processing or delivery (for example, a package being crushed by a forklift).
Tip: After lodging a complaint with the postal operator and obtaining a reference number, it is important to follow up with the company involved if you’ve heard nothing after 10 business days. If you’re still awaiting a response, or if you’re unsatisfied with the company’s actions, you can lodge a complaint with us.
If a postal operator does not guarantee a delivery timeframe in its terms and conditions, it does not generally provide compensation for delivery delays.
If the company does guarantees a delivery timeframe, it may offer compensation for the delay.
Australia Post does not guarantee a delivery timeframe for all of its services. Terms and conditions of delivery vary for its various postal products – and as such, so do the rules governing compensation for delays.
Did you know: Australia Post delivers 12.6 million letters to 11.3 million addresses across Australia every day.
Generally, responsibility for inquiring about a lost mail item, and entitlement to possible compensation, rests with the sender.
Sometimes, after a ‘missed delivery’ notification card is left, the item cannot be found by the postal operator. This is considered a lost item, and the sender should make inquiries about it on behalf of the addressee.
Australia Post has recently introduced a system allowing large parcels to be left in a safe place if they’re too big for a mailbox. If this is the case, a card should be left in the mailbox stating where the item has been left.
Note: If the item has been misdelivered and the [unintended] recipient has not returned the item to the mail stream, it may not be possible to locate your item and the sender can apply for compensation.
Sometimes, a problem with a mail delivery can cause hardship or financial loss.
This is known as consequential loss.
In general, compensation is not provided for consequential loss. It is important to check the terms and conditions of the postal operator involved to see if this is the case before lodging a complaint.
Australia Post does not pay compensation for consequential loss, such as fines incurred for non-payment of accounts. It is up to you to ensure your accounts are paid on time.
Registering for online billing may help ensure you are not penalised in the event of a mail item failing to arrive.
All registered postal operators have a document outlining their terms and conditions and how much, if any, compensation may apply. This document is generally available on the company’s website. It might also be provided on a receipt or other paperwork given to you.
Most companies stipulate a maximum payable compensation amount, depending on the service used.
For letters, compensation is normally limited to the refunded cost of postage, or a replacement prepaid satchel or envelope.
If your complaint relates to the amount of compensation paid or offered for a service failure, first check the terms and conditions for the product or service you purchased, then lodge a complaint with the company involved.
Reasons compensation is denied include:
- Postage of prohibited items such as narcotics or gold bullion
- Failure to adhere to packaging guidelines for fragile or flammable goods.
Mr B complained to the Ombudsman’s office that Australia Post had declined his insurance claim for a diamond ring lost in transit to the United Kingdom. Australia Post refused to reimburse him for the insured value because he had sent it using an inappropriate service. Australian Post also claimed that he had not lodged an enquiry within the 30-day time limit. The Ombudsman’s investigation led Australia Post to accept that it may have given Mr B incorrect advice about the best mail service to use to send valuable jewellery overseas. It also conceded that when Mr B contacted it within the 30‑day time limit, he had been incorrectly referred to Customs, which delayed his claim. Australia Post agreed to pay Mr B compensation for the lost items.
In general, for items sent with Australia Post:
- The addressee can make a claim for compensation when an item has been damaged
- The sender can make a claim if an item has been lost.
This is because when an item ‘disappears’, the sender is in the best position to confirm when and where it was posted. The sender also generally purchases the postage so it is the service they paid for that failed.
If the item is delivered, it can reasonably be considered to have become the responsibility of the addressee. Therefore, if it is damaged, the addressee can claim compensation.
The person with primary entitlement to claim compensation can usually transfer their right to claim to the other party in writing. This is not the case for certain international mail services.
For more details, see Australia Post’s compensation information, or contact the relevant operator.
For items sent via a Private Postal Operator:
Refer to the company’s terms and conditions of service for information about who should lodge a claim for loss or damage.
When you purchase any product, it is generally considered that you have agreed to the provider’s terms and conditions.
Australia is a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which makes rules for the transfer of mail between member countries.
Australia Post is required to follow UPU rules, which may affect whether compensation is payable for loss and damage. See Australia Post's International Mail Services Guide for more information.
When it comes to international deliveries with a Private Postal Operator, the relevant provider’s terms and conditions apply.
Redirection or mail hold requests are predominately manual processes and human error sometimes occurs.
Before contacting us with your complaint, it is important to first pursue the matter with the postal company.
This includes registering your complaint and obtaining a reference number. If you haven’t had a response 10 business days later, or if you are unsatisfied with the outcome, you can ask us to investigate.
When Mr AJ moved interstate out of the family home, he applied to Australia Post to redirect his mail from the family’s PO Box to his new address. Instead of redirecting only his mail, the Licenced Post Office (LPO) redirected all the family members' mail. The LPO manager told his family that staff were too busy to sort each mail item; that the redirection service was ‘all or nothing’ which meant they would redirect all mail or no mail; and that the son could cancel the service and ask for a refund. The family then received mail addressed to the son, and again asked the manager to redirect the mail correctly. The manager reiterated the earlier advice and referred the family to the area manager but would not provide a contact name or details. We investigated due to the lack of resolution, and because the manager’s advice and the LPO’s actions appeared to be contrary to Australia Post’s terms and conditions for its redirection service. In response, Australia Post acknowledged the error, found that the LPO manager had misunderstood the terms and conditions and the complaints process, and instructed the manager to correctly action the redirection. Australia Post apologised to the complainant and provided a refund for the period of failure.
- Double-check all the details on your mail hold or redirection form are correct, including the ‘from’ and ‘to’ addresses and the start and end dates
- Check that the address for your redirection has a mail delivery service. In some rural areas mail needs to be collected over the counter at the local post office
- If your redirection is long-term or permanent, notify all important senders that your address has changed. This includes your council, roads authority, energy providers and your phone company
- Sometimes, multiple people live at one address, and one only resident wants their mail forwarded. It is important this is made clear on the redirection form – there’s a checkbox provided to prevent any confusion.
If you have moved, provide your forwarding address to the new tenants at your old address. There is no charge for forwarding your letters.
What to do if you receive somebody else’s mail
While we acknowledge it can be difficult to prove, if you suspect there is a problem with your redirection, contact Australia Post as soon as possible. Provide the reference number received when you lodged the initial request.
If the postal operator cannot resolve the problem, we may be able to investigate what went wrong and whether it can be fixed.
Common reasons mail hasn’t arrived at its destination
- For one reason or another, the item was not posted
- The item was incorrectly addressed
- The item was incorrectly delivered
When items are incorrectly addressed or delivered, further problems can arise if the [unintended] recipient does not return the item to the sender.
At Australia Post, when an article cannot be delivered, the item is returned to the sender or to the Mail Redistribution Centre (formerly known as the Dead Letter Office).
Private Postal Operators also have procedures for processing incorrectly-addressed items. This varies between companies.
Nora had not received any mail since moving in to her new residence and believed her mail was being delivered to her next door neighbour’s letterbox instead. Nora complained to Australia Post and received conflicting advice about why her mail was being delivered incorrectly and whether her address was a valid delivery point.
Our investigation found that until recently Nora’s residence had a different street address and the new address was not listed on the National Address File (NAF). The result was that staff at the local delivery centre were unaware of the delivery location. Australia Post updated Nora’s address on the NAF, informed the local delivery centre of the change and apologised to Nora for the inconvenience.
In investigating a complaint about lost mail, we aim to establish if the postal operator has done all it reasonably can do to find the item. This can include a manual and electronic searches.
If it is determined that the item was delivered to the wrong address, or given to the wrong person, the PIO will recommend an attempt to retrieve the item.
The extent of the search may take into consideration the value of the item. This includes both its monetary value and whether or not it is easily replaceable.
If we establish that a reasonable search has failed to locate the item, our next consideration is what compensation is payable under the operator’s terms and conditions.
There are many reasons you might accidentally receive somebody else’s mail.
- The address is hard to decipher, or incomplete
- The mail is for a past resident who hasn’t supplied forwarding details
- The mail was meant for a similar address in a nearby location. For example, when one long road passes through various suburbs, or when similar-sounding street names cause confusion, such Acacia Avenue versus Acacia Court
- Human error.
Tip: If you have a recurring problem with incorrect delivery, make a complaint to the postal operator and make it clear the problem is ongoing. It is important to take this step before asking the PIO to investigate.
What do I do if I receive somebody else’s mail?
Australia Post's policy is to 'deliver as addressed'. This means delivering mail to the address provided, irrespective of the name on the mail, unless there is a mail redirection or hold in place.
Here’s what to do if you have received somebody else’s mail:
If you do know the intended recipient’s current address:
- Forward the mail by crossing out the old address, adding the new address and reposting the article. Mail must not be opened.
There is no charge for reposting unopened letters this way. However, there is a fee for reposting mail other than ordinary letter articles (for example, parcels or Express Post items) to anyone other than the sender.
If you do not know the intended recipient’s current address:
- Mark the front of the item: ‘Return to sender’ and ‘No longer at this address’ and ideally, ‘Please update your records’. Repost it to the sender.
There is no fee for returning unopened letters to the sender.
If you know the intended recipient, suggest they contact Australia Post to arrange a redirection or hold.
Please note that Australia Post no longer accepts requests for permanent, ongoing redirections for customers who regularly receive mail meant for previous occupants.
Can I just throw it in the bin?
No. Australia Post is the only body that can legally dispose of mail and they must follow specific guidelines to do so. Incorrectly-delivered mail should be returned as advised above.
We do not investigate the actions of businesses or individuals that provide general letterbox distribution of unaddressed advertising material. See details about ‘Junk mail’ below.
While Australia’s postal market is open for most services, only Australia Post delivers letters.
This means Australia Post is required by law to provide a ‘standard letter service’ at a uniform price across the country.
Under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989, letters up to 250 grams are reserved to Australia Post. Other people and businesses can only carry them if they charge four times the basic postage rate.
As a general rule, Australia Post completes delivery of a postal article when it places the item in the mailbox at the addressed premises, or hands the article to a person who is apparently a responsible resident of the premises.
This also applies to private mailboxes: a delivery is considered completed when the article is put in the mailbox.
Australia Post has no obligation to ensure the addressee still lives at the address (unless a mail redirection is in place). This is set out in Australia Post’s terms and conditions.
If you have a complaint about mail delivery that involves human error, we may be able to ask the postal operator to put management controls in place to supervise delivery officers in an attempt to improve your situation.
Why isn’t mail delivered to my street?
Australia Post does not provide street delivery in all areas. In some rural and regional areas, customers collect their mail at the counter of the local postal outlet, or from a PO box or roadside mailbox.
Customers can request that Australia Post provide street delivery to their area. Australia Post may respond by conducting a poll to determine if there is enough support from local residents to change to street deliveries.
Please contact Australia Post for information and instructions on requesting street delivery, or refer to its document Group mail poll delivery policy.
Ivan purchased an item online and the seller sent it to him by Express Post. Ivan did not receive the item but the tracking information indicated that the parcel had been delivered. When Ivan complained to Australia Post, he was advised that the parcel was correctly delivered as it was dropped at a safe place at his address, and the complaint was closed. In response to our investigation, Australia Post decided the address was not a suitable location for a safe drop due to visibility from the street. Australia Post provided Ivan with full compensation for the item and the location was no longer deemed a safe drop location.
In general, Australia Post should not deliver unaddressed mail, or junk mail, as it’s known, if there is a sticker on the mailbox stating “no unaddressed advertising mail” or similar.
However, there are exceptions.
Australia Post can deliver unaddressed mail if it is a ‘community notice’ such as mail from:
- Local, state or federal governments and their agencies
- Political organisations
- Religious or educational institutions
- Charitable bodies (including benevolent and welfare societies)
These exemptions are authorised under Australia Post’s terms and conditions, which are established under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989.
Unaddressed advertising material delivered by other companies
The Postal Industry Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about unaddressed mail (sometimes called 'junk mail'). The Commonwealth Ombudsman can investigate these complaints only if Australia Post delivered the mail.
In general Australia Post should not deliver unaddressed mail if there is a sticker or sign on the mailbox stating "no unaddressed advertising material" or similar. However, mail material deemed to be political, educational, religious and charitable is exempt from "No Junk Mail" signs. Some States and Territories have also enacted ‘No Junk Mail’ laws to regulate unaddressed mail.
Australia Post’s introduction of a ‘Regular’ and ‘Priority’ letter delivery service, and an increase in the basic postage rate from 70 cents to $1, came into effect in January 2016. The cost of sending a standard sized letter via priority letter delivery will cost $1.50. There are concession stamps available for eligible persons to purchase in Australia Post shop fronts. See more information here.
Price-setting and the introduction of the two-speed letter service are commercial decisions for Australia Post which were considered and approved by established regulatory processes.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has oversight of prices for Australia Post’s ‘ordinary’ letter services under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
In December 2015, ACCC opted not to object to Australia Post’s price increase for letters. You can read more about the decision here.
The Ombudsman typically does not investigate commercial or pricing decisions made by Australia Post.
We aim to resolve your complaint and achieve a practical outcome. Sometimes we may not be able to achieve your preferred outcome. For example, we might find:
- The terms and conditions limit the compensation payable for lost or damaged postal items
- The postal provider’s actions and decisions are in keeping with its terms and conditions
- The problem is broader than your individual complaint and would need to be addressed in another way
- There is not enough information or evidence to establish what happened or why.
If your complaint is beyond the jurisdiction of the PIO, we aim to point you in the direction an agency or service that can help.
Why all complaints matter
The PIO monitors and analyses the information gathered from all complaints and investigations.
This helps us identify broader issues in mail and delivery companies’ policies, procedures and systems.
We work to resolve these with the relevant companies through our liaison with operational and executive areas, and through our special investigations and Ombudsman reports.
Even if we are unable to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, your complaint is valuable for its information and evidence which can assist with our broader work.
The Postal Industry Ombudsman can only investigate complaints that are about a 'postal or similar service'. Companies that provide these services include couriers and a packet or parcel carrying service.
There is no statutory or judicial definition of a 'postal or similar service'. We define it in the following way:
'The acceptance of a mail item, package or parcel for the purpose of delivery, at a cost, to a person or entity whose address is specified on the item'.
This is a broad definition, and we take a common sense approach to applying it in practice. Where a service does not fall within the popular conception of a 'postal or similar service' – for example, the delivery of a pallet of goods to a retail premises – we would consider that it falls outside the definition.
Any company that provides one or more of the following services can apply to register as a Private Postal Operator (PPO) under the Ombudsman Act:
- acceptance of mail items, packages or parcels for delivery as above
- the security of that mail, package or parcel
- the allocation and transport of that mail, package or parcel
- the retention of that mail, package or parcel for collection by the addressee, or the delivery to the specified address or to another address.