In the run-up to Christmas, millions of us relied upon delivery companies and services to get parcels where they needed to be.The growth of online courier services has accelerated in recent years as people do more and more of their shopping from the comfort of home – but that doesn't always lead to good customer service.
At Moneywise, we regularly receive complaints about parcel delivery firms, with one in particular – online delivery broker Parcel Monkey – appearing in our complaint inbox more frequently than others. In the two months leading up to Christmas, complaints about Parcel Monkey spiked, accounting for half of all the emails we received.
With this in mind, I spoke to the company's performance director Matt Sennett about its customer service, its apparent poor performance and what customers can do if something goes wrong with their parcel delivery.
Not a delivery service
Sennett firstly pointed out that Parcel Monkey is not a delivery service but more of a comparison website. Like rivals Parcel Hero and MyParcelDelivery.com, Parcel Monkey sells various pick-up and delivery options for all of the major couriers, which are the firms that actually deliver your parcel. These include Yodel, DHL, Parcelforce and DX.
This is an important distinction to make, Sennett argues, because many customers believe that Parcel Monkey is responsible for delivering parcels – a confusion that adds to the perception it is failing its customers.
"There is no doubt that many customers who start to use us fail to understand what our exact role is, despite our best efforts to make this very clear throughout our website," he explains (the company has recently started referring to itself as "the UK's favourite parcel delivery comparison website").
"This does lead to confusion at times and also many cases of negative comments, which are not deserved," he adds.
Moneywise readers have also reported difficulty contacting Parcel Monkey when something goes wrong, only adding to the frustration caused by the problem with initial delivery.
A quick look on the Parcel Monkey website shows there is no customer services number for people to call – the 'contact us' tab asks users to log in to their customer account where they can access information about what to do and speak to its support team online.
The alternative given is a postal address. According to Sennett, the lack of phone number is actually designed to help customers. He denies that Parcel Monkey makes it deliberately difficult for customers to get in touch and says it aims to deal with cases at the "first time of asking" through the online forum available at any time of day.
"Our customer support team operates via our website and all customers have full access to the team via their account dashboard.This is the most efficient and cost-effective form of communication for our customers as they can provide us with the details of the issue they have at any point in time and we can then investigate matters with the courier concerned," he says.
"Should we offer telephone support, then communication will be restricted to business hours only. We make it very easy for customers to contact us quickly on a range of different subjects."
According to our readers, however, it is not as easy as Sennett believes to contact his firm, which does not appear to reply promptly in every case.
We also put a number of specific reader complaints to Parcel Monkey but the firm refused to admit any further liability and referred us to its extensive terms and conditions.
For example, one of our readers, JR, paid for 'guaranteed next day delivery' to ensure that 100 brochures were delivered to an event on a Friday, having ordered them on Wednesday. She insured the package as the material inside was worth £150.
The batch of brochures didn't arrive in time but Parcel Monkey refused to pay her the £150 as the package was delayed rather than lost. It did, however, agree to refund the delivery charge.
Sennet told Moneywise that while it understood that such a delay can be frustrating for customers, and apologised on behalf of the now defunct courier CiyLink, he reiterated the point that the T&Cs clearly state that only the shipping cost will be refunded in full if the delivery is not made on time.
He explained that as the package wasn't lost or damaged, Parcel Monkey would not be offering JR the 'insurance' payment, formally called loss/damage cover. Again, he referred back to the T&Cs that state the company accepts no liability for any consequential loss "arising from, or in connection with, the services supplied by the company and its agents".
Another reader, LH, sent a synthesiser via Parcel Monkey but when it arrived the recipient noticed it was damaged and asked for a refund. LH had insured the item for £300 but when he tried to claim he was told it was on Parcel Monkey's prohibited item list and, as a result, no offer was made.
Sennett points out that all musical items are carried on a non-compensation basis, as clearly stated in its prohibited item list, which all customers confirm they have read when making a booking - leaving our reader out of pocket because of the T&Cs.
But Moneywise believes Parcel Monkey could help customers by improving its automated service so that customers disclosing they're sending items on the non-compensation list are unable to purchase 'insurance'. And for the record, it's not really insurance. Parcel couriers don't have underwriters assessing claims and neither are they regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, as insurers are.
Sennett adds that in more than 90% of cases collection and delivery happens on time without a problem. But clearly, when using Parcel Monkey or any other broker, customers must be fully aware of the T&Cs. Based on feedback from our readers, it seems to be that when something goes wrong, you're highly unlikely to be compensated to the amount you believe you should be.
Your parcel rights
- If you order an item from a retailer and it doesn't turn up, or is late, then your first action should be to contact the retailer. It is the retailer who has a relationship with the courier or parcel company.
- Under the Sales of Goods Act, goods should be delivered in a 'reasonable time'. What is reasonable will depend on the type of goods and original delivery estimate. When a 'reasonable time' has passed, you can cancel your order and receive a full refund.
- If you are sending a parcel you can use Royal Mail, a courier company, or a third party broker, such as Parcel Monkey.
- If something goes wrong you may be eligible for compensation depending on the length of delay, the type of delivery you paid for, and the broker's terms and conditions.
- Always check the broker's and courier's T&Cs before deciding on a delivery option.
Why are the only issues…
Why are the only issues addressed those where the user could be in the wrong. What about all the other issues, like refusing refunds for genuine cases. Customer service is a disgrace :(