Tools and resources

Complaints about Postal Operators

We can only investigate complaints about postal operators registered with the Office.  These postal operators are currently registered:

  • Australia Post
  • StarTrack

We investigate postal or similar 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.”

We do not investigate complaints about unaddressed mail delivery (junk mail).

Australia Post exception

Australia Post is an Australian government enterprise. This means we can also consider complaints about Australia Post involving:

  • services provided in a postal retail outlet, including Licensed Post Offices (LPOs) such as retail products, bill payment, passport services and mailbox rental.
  • the actions of staff, for example damage to property or misconduct
  • some contract decisions.

See our ‘Before you make a complaint’ information for more details.

  1. Check your rights
    • Check the postal operator’s terms and conditions covering products or services.
  2. Contact the postal operator
    • Make a formal complaint via the postal operator's website, or phone line.
    • Get a complaint reference number as proof of your complaint.
  3. 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 business days, contact the postal operator to follow up.
  4. 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
  • lost, damaged or delayed packages
  • parcel drop-off issues.
  • incorrect mail redirection mail
  • customer service or complaint handling
  • personal property damage, for example if a delivery contractor’s vehicle damages a fence.
  • problems that occur if mail is late or lost, such as a fine for driving an unregistered vehicle (consequential loss).

We generally do not disagree with postal operators who follow their terms and conditions.

Read the terms and conditions to check the service was delivered correctly and as it was promised to you. The terms and conditions will have information about what the provider will do if things go wrong.

For letters

Australia Post cannot track regular letters. This is because letters do not have a barcode or other tracking information.

It is usually not possible to search for a regular letter, such as a bill, that has not reached its destination.

For parcels

Parcel operators can try to track an item if it has a barcode.

Courier services usually have a track-and-trace system, which usually provides an accurate account of an item’s location.

Check the postal operator’s terms and conditions to establish if they offer compensation.

If your item is damaged:

  • Check postal operator’s packaging guidelines.
  • Take photos of the packaging and the damaged article.
  • Keep all the packaging.
  • Report the damage to the company involved as soon as possible.

Common reasons items arrive damaged:

  • The item is too fragile to post.
  • The packaging wasn’t strong enough.
  • 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 after 10 business days if you have heard nothing
  • Lodge a complaint with us if you don’t get a response or if you are not happy with the provider’s actions.

Sometimes, if a letter or parcel isn’t delivered correctly it causes other problems, for example a fine for not paying a bill on time. This is called a consequential loss.

Compensation is not usually provided for a consequential loss.

Check the terms and conditions of the postal operator.

The postal operator’s terms and conditions will tell you when they will pay compensation and the most they will pay.  The terms and conditions are  usually on the company’s website. They might also be on a receipt or other paperwork.

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.

If you have lost or received damaged items sent by a Private Postal Operator, check the 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.

For international deliveries with a Private Postal Operator refer to the relevant provider’s terms and conditions.

We check whether the postal operator has done all it can to find the item.

If an item is delivered to the wrong address, we will ask the postal operator to try to get it back.

If the missing item can’t be found, we will check the postal operator’s terms and conditions to work out what compensation should be paid.

Redirecting or holding mail is a manual process and human error sometimes occurs.

If you have problems, register a complaint with the postal operator and get a reference number.

Contact us if:

  • you have not had a response within 10 business days, or
  • the problem has not been fixed.

You might receive somebody else’s letters because:

  • 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 and Acacia Court.

Australia Post's policy is to 'deliver as addressed'. This means they will deliver mail to the address provided. They will only check the name on the mail if there is a mail redirection or hold in place.

Here’s what to do if you have received someone else’s letters:

If you do know the intended recipient’s current address:

  1. Forward the mail by crossing out the old address.
  2. Add the new address.
  3. 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.

If you do not know the intended recipient’s current address:

  1. Mark the front of the item: 'return to sender – unknown at this address'.
  2. Include ‘Please update your records’.
  3. 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 mail. You should return incorrectly delivered mail as advised above.

Unaddressed mail

We do not investigate the actions of businesses or individuals who provide general letterbox distribution of unaddressed advertising material. See details about ‘Junk mail’.

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:

We can only investigate unaddressed mail (sometimes called junk mail) if Australia Post delivered it.

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.

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 established under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989.