Handling Lost Property

Is your parcel company actually taking reasonable steps to trace and communicate with the true owners of goods before selling them on? Is there any independent way to verify this?

Most parcel companies are private companies. They are not subject to random spot-checks by independent third parties.

To the best of my knowledge, the only parcel company that has ever been somewhat transparent about what it does with ‘undeliverable’ items is Royal Mail. Sunday & Daily Mirror writer Steve Myall visited The Royal Mail National Return Centre,Belfast, in 2013. This was before privatisation.

When most private parcel companies open doors to the media, it’s usually a controlled public relations exercise.

APC Overnight's Site 2 was a small industrial unit where I collected undelivered items from. Unlike what you see in the photo, it was absolutely filthy as were all the items I collected.

What proof do we have that parcel companies actively make reasonable efforts to trace and communicate with the true owners of goods or do they simply flog them on?

Selling Lost Property

How, where and to whom does your parcel company sell (dispose) of your lost items ?

There are confidentiality agreements in place between auction houses, other private businesses and parcel companies.

When parcel companies bought goods back off me, I signed secrecy agreements. This is why I have mentioned some parcel companies by name and not others.

Some parcel companies asked me sign confidentiality / secrecy agreement.

No parcel company has ever stated how they go about selling undelivered and unclaimed consignments. Most terms and conditions and/or conditions of carriage simply use words like ‘dispose’ or ‘disposal’ which are more commonly associated with throwing things in the bin and not selling them, which is what they do with the overwhelming majority of items.

I’ve traced items back to their true owners from simply looking at images on online auction websites.

In the following example, I watched an item being sold by City Link via City Auctioneering. An associate of mine contacted the company that produced the item. Their final response was as follows:

“Please be advised that this matter is now in the hands of the police and our legal representatives so we are not in any position to provide information to unknown parties.”

I did contact their local police constabulary to see if I could assist as I had information about the whereabouts of the item, but the police said that the item had not been reported as lost or stolen with them.

I then observed the eBay seller who bought this item, selling it on eBay. This poor chap had been contacted direct by the same company whose name I have omitted:

“After providing ——- with the reciept they contacted [redacted] who confirmed the item was indeed lost in transit and not from a private sale or stolen.

——- confirmed this with me but sent a long e-mail with legal information, which i did not understand, but ended it by threatening court action.

It was because of this that i caved into their demands and accepted their offer.”

I certainly would not have caved into their demands. Who knows if they had already been compensated for the item? They or their customer should have contacted the respective parcel company instead of having a go at this eBay seller.

If there any eBay sellers out there that find themselves in a similar situation, please contact me as I have some experience in a similar case.

The Law

The law that entitles parcel companies to dispose / sell your lost parcels.

The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 entitles parcel companies to sell goods from undelivered and unclaimed consignments, provided that reasonable steps are taken to trace and communicate with the owners of the goods in question.

Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977

Next time your goods get lost in transit and you didn’t take out the optional insurance – don’t write it off altogether. Treat it the same as you would if your bike was stolen, you forgot one of your bags on the train, you misplaced your phone under a newspaper in a coffee shop, can’t find your iPod after coming off the plane… why? Because it’s still your property.

The same law that gives the rights to lost property departments of police constabularies, coffee shops, train operators and airlines to sell your lost property also applies to parcel companies.

With the continued increase in our online shopping habits, I think it’s quite reasonable for us to expect parcel companies to be more transparent about what they do with our lost items. Especially if in most cases, they end up in the public domain at auctions houses across the country and/or eventually on eBay.