Industry Insights

DAMAGED GOODS IN TRANSIT: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

You work hard to ensure your load is well-secured and delivered on time, but the transport of goods always comes with inherent risks.

Damaged packages, poor handling, missing cargo or even an unforeseen accident—who exactly is responsible?

Can a buyer refuse to take delivery of an order? And if they do, should the driver on duty bring it back to the depot?

To avoid disputes in the event of damaged goods, drivers need to have a clear understanding of their rights and obligations.

Defining damage

First off, what exactly are damaged goods?

According to Australian Consumer Law, a damaged product is one that does not meet the consumer guarantee of acceptable quality. To meet this guarantee, a product should be:

  • fit for purpose;
  • safe, durable and free from defects; and
  • acceptable in appearance and finish.

Knowing your rights (and theirs too)

You’ve found the right address and handed over a package successfully…only for the receiver to find something wrong with the product.

In the case where a product fails to meet the consumer guarantee, they can request for a refund, repair or replacement with the seller—but that doesn’t necessary mean they’re entitled to one.

Refund and replacement

In the case of a minor problem, the consumer has the right for a free repair instead of a replacement or a refund. If the consumer has a major problem, they have their right to ask for replacement or refund.

Returning goods

According to Australian Consumer Law, consumers are generally responsible for returning the product if it can be posted or easily returned. When a product is too large, too heavy or difficult to remove, it is the seller’s responsibility to bear the shipping costs or costs of recollecting the product when notified within a reasonable time frame.

Truck drivers and courier services are not responsible for the return of a damaged product at the point of delivery—unless it is otherwise stated in the contractual agreement.

In each case, the consumer’s dispute lies with the seller, not the postal service, courier company or contracted delivery service. According to Australian Consumer Law, it is the seller’s responsibility to resolve any issues with the company or service used for the delivery of the product.

However, this does not mean that private operators are free from the responsibility to take reasonable care for the safe transport and delivery of products in their care.

Delivery operators have to abide by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) rules on loading and corresponding chain of responsibility laws for securing loads correctly. Failure to do so can incur hefty penalties, not to mention potentially putting cargo and safety in jeopardy.

Ways to reduce the risk of damaged goods

Transport & delivery contracts

Private operators can limit their liability on damaged goods through exclusion and limitation clauses in their contract… but these clauses can’t be used to avoid liability for negligence, poor handling or deliberate acts of misconduct, either.

Drivers should always be aware of their obligation to:

  • take reasonable care in the right handling of the product;
  • take reasonable care in securing the load and delivery; and
  • take care to avoid deliberate or negligent acts that may lead to damage of the load.

Having clarity in contractual terms and a good awareness of each party’s rights and obligations will stand you in good stead, should it come to resolving any unfortunate disputes.

Proof of delivery

In today’s world of online shopping and ordering, thousands of parcels are going left, right and centre around Australia each day. It’s advisable that delivery operators take photos of every product upon delivery—backing up your position if any claims on missing cargo or damaged goods come rolling in.

Insurance

A good way to reduce the risk of costly replacement or fines is to have appropriate and comprehensive insurance in place. This can mitigate any losses incurred due to incidental damage to goods and ensure your own peace of mind in the process.

Got a load on your mind? Check out our blog on safe handling and securing loads here.

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