Registered Postal Operators
The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the postal operators listed below:
- Australia Post
- D and D Mailing Services
Our service is free. We are independent and impartial and do not represent consumers or postal operators.
We aim to ensure a quick complaint resolution process with fair outcomes for all involved.
Mei ordered a Christmas present for her child from a United States of America (USA) merchant.
Delivery of the item was via ShopMate, an Australia Post service that allows people in Australia to receive deliveries from companies that do not offer shipping to Australia.
After Mei’s product arrived at the USA warehouse, Australia Post advised Mei the item was over the size limits and could not be shipped to Australia. Mei complained to Australia Post, noting that the dimensions of the item on the merchant’s website suggested the item was within the advertised limits.
Australia Post responded that the length of the article exceeded the size limits and offered Mei options including:
- having the item destroyed for a $5 fee
- returning the item to the sender (at Mei’s expense),or
- sending the item to another USA address (at Mei’s expense).
Mei requested that Australia Post repack the item to reduce the length, but Australia Post advised it could not reduce the length of the item.
Mei then made a complaint to our Office, stating that Australia Post’s responses did not explain the discrepancy in the length of the item and that delays in responding prevented the issue from being resolved in time for Christmas.
Following our investigation, and in recognition of the disappointment Mei experienced, Australia Post arranged for the article to be delivered via an alternative method at a discounted price as a gesture of goodwill.
For more information about the complaints process and what to expect from our Office click here.
Postal or similar service
The Ombudsman’s Office can only investigate complaints about postal or similar services provided by registered postal operators including:
- Australia Post
- D and D Mailing Services
There is no legal definition of a 'postal or similar service' but we define it broadly as:
“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.”
It does not include unaddressed (“junk”) mail.
Companies that provide ‘postal or similar services’ include Australia Post, couriers and parcel-carrying services, and any company that provides one or more of the following services can apply to register as a Private Postal Operator (PPO):
- 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.
Australia Post exception
We can consider complaints about services provided by Australia Post, other than postal or similar services as defined above. This might include:
- services provided in a postal retail outlet, including Licensed Post Offices (LPOs) such as retail products, bill payment, passport services, mailbox rental, etc.
- the actions of staff, for example damage to property or misconduct
- contact issues
- some contract decisions.
See our ‘Before you make a complaint’ information for more details.
The general letterbox delivery of unaddressed mail (or junk mail) does not meet the definition of a postal or delivery service. We do not investigate complaints concerning unaddressed mail delivery.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Check your rights
- Postal operators publish information and the terms and conditions covering their products or services.
- Check the information and terms and conditions to make sure you have grounds for lodging a complaint.
- 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 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 follow up.
- Contact us
- If you still do not receive a response or you are not satisfied with the postal operator's response, contact us to make a complaint.
Common complaints include:
- 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
- parcel drop-off issues.
Other postal services
- failure to provide a service, such as a mail redirection
- customer service or complaint-handling
- personal property damage, for example if a delivery contractor’s vehicle damages a fence.
People commonly contact our Office 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 a postal operator, you must check their terms and conditions. This is to establish whether they failed to meet these and if the postal operator offers compensation.
The terms and conditions of a service describe any guarantees, liability or compensation that a postal operator provides if its service fails.
We generally do not find fault with postal operators who comply with their terms and conditions.
It is important to note that Australia Post cannot track standard letters through the mail stream. This is because letters do not have a barcode or other tracking information.
Therefore, it is usually not possible to start a search for a standard letter, such as a bill, that has not reached its destination.
Parcel operators will attempt to track an item if it has a barcode.
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 they offer compensation.
Emmanuel arranged for a parcel to be sent to him using Australia Post’s cash-on-delivery service with Extra Cover.
When collecting the parcel, Emmanuel noticed extra wrapping around the parcel. When he opened the postal bag, the contents of the parcel fell out. A note inside explained that Australia Post repackaged the item due to damage when it had arrived at the delivery centre.
Emmanuel then found that some of the items he was expecting to receive were missing from the parcel. The sender explained that Australia Post staff assisted with the packaging of the items.
Emmanuel contacted Australia Post to make a claim for compensation for the lost items. Australia Post refused Emmanuel’s claim for compensation, claiming the items were not packaged to their recommendations.
Emmanuel then lodged a complaint with us to investigate further. Following our investigation, Australia Post concluded the packaging did not meet their packaging recommendations. Yet, an Australia Post staff member packed and processed the transaction.
Based on this, Australia Post agreed to compensate Emmanuel for the lost items under the Extra Cover he had purchased.
- Check if the packaging complied with the postal operator’s packaging guidelines.
- Take photos of the packaging and the damaged article, if possible. Keep all of the packaging.
- Report the damage to the company involved as soon as possible.
We may be able to investigate a complaint if:
- A company refuses compensation, despite it being within the limits of their terms and conditions.
- The postal operator refuses compensation on the basis of inadequate packaging, despite the packaging complying with the guidelines supplied.
Common reasons items arrive damaged in the mail:
- The item is too fragile to post.
- The packaging is insufficient.
- Accidental damage during processing or delivery, for example, a forklift crushes a package.
Tip: After lodging a complaint with the postal operator and getting a reference number, it is important to:
- Follow up with the company involved if you have heard nothing after 10 business days.
- Lodge a complaint with us if you are still awaiting a response or if you are not satisfied with the provider’s actions.
See our information about compensation for damaged items below.
If a postal operator guarantees a delivery timeframe, it may offer compensation for the delay. Otherwise, compensation for delivery days is generally not provided.
Delivery timeframes are not guaranteed for all Australia Post services. Terms and conditions of delivery vary for its various postal products and so do the rules governing compensation for delays.
Responsibility for following up a lost mail item/parcel and entitlement to possible compensation, rests with the sender.
Sometimes, after a ‘missed delivery’ a postal operator will leave a notification card. If the item is not found, the postal operator considers it a lost item. The sender should make inquiries about this lost item on behalf of the addressee.
If an item is too large for a mailbox, Australia Post has a system to provide a safe place for collection. Australia Post should leave a card in the mailbox stating where the item is.
If the postal operator delivers an item to the wrong address and it does not return the item to the mail stream, it may not be possible to locate your item. The sender can apply for compensation in this circumstance.
Sometimes, a problem with a mail delivery can cause hardship or financial loss. This is a consequential loss.
In general, compensation is not provided for a consequential loss.
Before lodging a complaint, check the terms and conditions of the postal operator to see if this is the case.
Australia Post does not pay compensation for a consequential loss. This may include fines incurred for non-payment of accounts.
All registered postal operators outline their compensation guidelines in their terms and conditions. This document is generally available on the company’s website. The postal operator might also provide it to you on a receipt or other paperwork.
Most companies outline the largest amount payable under compensation. This will usually depend on the service used.
The limit for compensation of letters will generally be:
- the refunded cost of postage, or
- the replacement of an envelope or prepaid satchel.
Tip: If your complaint relates to the amount of compensation paid or offered, first:
- check the terms and conditions for the product or service you purchased
- lodge a complaint with the company involved.
Denial of compensation may occur due to:
- postage of prohibited items such as narcotics or gold bullion
- failure to adhere to packaging guidelines for fragile or flammable goods.
Mr B had a diamond ring lost in transit to the United Kingdom with Australia Post. Australia Post denied his insurance claim, so Mr B complained to our Office.
Australia Post refused to reimburse Mr B for the insured value. They stated he had sent it using an inappropriate service. Australia Post also claimed he had not lodged an enquiry within the 30-day time limit.
Our investigation found that:
- Australia Post gave Mr B incorrect advice about the best mail service to use.
- When Mr B contacted Australia Post within the 30-day time limit, they referred him to Customs.
Australia Post conceded Mr B had received incorrect advice that resulted in Mr B not choosing the best service to send jewellery overseas and the referral to Customs delayed Mr B’s claim. Australia Post agreed to pay Mr B compensation for the lost item.
In general, the below applies for items sent with Australia Post:
- For damaged items, the addressee can make a claim for compensation.
- For lost items, the sender can make a claim.
When an item ‘disappears’, the sender is in the best position to confirm when and where they posted the item. The sender also generally purchases the postage so it is the service they paid for that failed.
Delivered items are the responsibility of the addressee. If an item arrives 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 postal operator.
If you have lost or received damaged items sent via a Private Postal Operator, refer to their terms and conditions. These will outline who can lodge a claim for loss or damage.
Australia is a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The UPU makes rules for the transfer of mail between member countries.
UPU requires Australia Post to follow their rules. This may affect whether compensation is payable for loss and damage.
See Australia Post's International Mail Services Guide for more information.
For international deliveries with a Private Postal Operator refer to the relevant provider’s terms and conditions.
Redirection or mail hold requests are manual processes and human error sometimes occurs.
Raise any problems with the postal company before contacting our Office. This includes registering your complaint and obtaining a reference number.
You can contact us to investigate if:
- you have not had a response within 10 business days, or
- you are not satisfied with the outcome.
Bob moved interstate away from his family. He applied for Australia Post to redirect his mail from the family's PO Box to his new address. The Licensed Post Office (LPO) redirected all mail, instead of redirecting only his.
The LPO manager informed Bob that staff were too busy to sort individual mail items. The manager outlined that the redirection service was 'all or nothing'. This meant they could redirect all, or no mail and that Bob could cancel the service and ask for a refund.
When Bob’s family continued to receive his mail, they asked the LPO to redirect it again. The LPO manager reiterated the information he had given to Bob. He then referred the family to the area manager. Yet, he failed to provide a contact name or details for follow up.
We investigated the case as:
- there was no resolution for Bob and his family
- the LPO manager's advice was inconsistent with Australia Post's redirection terms and conditions.
In response to our investigation, Australia Post:
- found that the LPO manager had misunderstood the terms and conditions
- acknowledged the error and apologised to Bob
- instructed the manager to action the redirection service
provided a refund for the period of failure.
- Double-check all the details on your mail hold or redirection form are correct. This includes the ‘from’ and ‘to’ addresses and the start and end dates.
- Check that the address for your redirection has a mail delivery service. Collection of mail in some rural areas needs to be over the counter at the local post office.
- If your redirection address is long-term or permanent, notify all important senders. This includes your council, roads authority, energy providers and your phone company.
- If only one resident at an address wants their mail redirected, it is important to make this clear. There is a checkbox on the redirection form 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.
Common reasons mail has not arrived at its destination:
- for one reason or another, the item was not posted
- the item was not addressed to the correct recipient, or
- the item was not delivered to the correct address.
If an unintended recipient of an item does not return it to the sender, it can result in further problems.
At Australia Post, when delivery of an article cannot occur, the item is:
- returned to the sender, or
- returned to the Mail Redistribution Centre.
Private Postal Operators also have procedures for processing incorrectly addressed items. This varies between companies.
Nora had moved house and not received any mail since moving in to her new address. She believed her mail was being delivered to her next door neighbour’s letterbox instead.
Nora complained to Australia Post. She received conflicting advice about why she was not receiving mail. She also could not confirm whether her address was a valid delivery point.
Unsatisfied with Australia Post’s response, Nora contacted us. Our investigation found that:
- until recently Nora’s house had a different street address
- 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.
Following our investigation, Australia Post:
- updated Nora’s address on the NAF
- informed the local delivery centre of the change
- apologised to Nora for the inconvenience.
When investigating a complaint about lost mail, we aim to establish if the postal operator has done all it can to find the item. This can include manual and electronic searches.
If an item is not delivered to the correct address, or given to the right person, we 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 it is replaceable.
We will consider what compensation is payable under the operator’s terms and conditions if a search has failed to locate a missing item.
There are many reasons you might accidentally receive somebody else’s letters.
This may occur when:
- the address is hard to read or incomplete
- the letter is for a past resident who hasn’t supplied forwarding details
- human error has occurred, or
- the letter is for a similar address in a nearby location. This may include when one long road passes through various suburbs. Similar-sounding street names also cause confusion, such as Acacia Avenue versus Acacia Court.
What do I do if I receive somebody else’s letters?
Australia Post's policy is to 'deliver as addressed'. This means they will deliver mail to the address provided, irrespective of the name on the mail. The only time an item will not arrive is if there is a mail redirection or hold in place.
Here’s what to do if you have received somebody else’s letters:
If you do know the intended recipient’s current address:
- Forward the mail by crossing out the old address.
- Add the new address.
- Repost the article.
Note: You must not open mail that is not addressed to you.
There is no charge for reposting unopened letters this way. 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—unknown at this address'
- Include ‘Please update your records’
- Place the item in a red street posting box or hand it to staff at any Post Office for return.
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.
Australia Post does not accept requests for permanent, ongoing redirections for customers who regularly receive mail meant for previous occupants.
Can I throw it in the bin?
No. Australia Post is the only body that can legally dispose of mail. They follow specific guidelines to dispose of mail. You should return incorrectly delivered mail 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’.
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 Australia Post provide street delivery to their area. Australia Post may respond by conducting a poll. This is to determine if there is enough local support to change to street deliveries.
For information and instructions on requesting street delivery:
- contact Australia Post
- refer to the Australia Post document Group mail poll delivery policy.
Ivan purchased an item online and the seller sent it to him by Express Post. The tracking information indicated that delivery of the item was successful. Ivan could not locate the item though.
Ivan complained to Australia Post. They advised him they had delivered the parcel successfully. They had left it in a safe place at his address.
Australia Post then closed the complaint.
Unsatisfied with this outcome, Ivan contacted our Office to investigate his complaint. In response, Australia Post decided the address was not a suitable location for a safe drop. This was due to visibility from the street.
Following our investigation Australia Post:
- provided Ivan with full compensation for the item
determined the location was no longer deemed a safe drop location.
If there is a sticker on a mailbox stating “no unaddressed advertising mail” or similar, Australia Post should not deliver:
- unaddressed mail, or
- junk mail.
Yet, 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. These are established under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989.
Unaddressed advertising material delivered by other companies
We cannot investigate complaints about unaddressed mail (sometimes called 'junk mail'). We can only investigate unaddressed mail delivery if Australia Post has delivered it.
We aim to resolve your complaint and achieve a practical outcome. Sometimes we may not be able to achieve your preferred outcome, such as when:
- The terms and conditions limit the compensation payable.
- The postal provider’s actions and decisions are in keeping with its terms and conditions.
- The problem is broader than your individual complaint. We will address it in another way.
- There is not enough information or evidence to establish what happened or why.
If your complaint is beyond the scope of our work, we aim to point you in the direction of an agency or service that can help.
Why all complaints matter
We check and analyse the information gathered from all complaints and investigations.
Complaints help 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
- special investigations
- Ombudsman reports.
Even if we are unable to resolve your complaint, it is valuable information and evidence, which can assist with our broader work.