How can I prevent incorrectly delivered packages
My return package has not arrived or has been lost
Table of Contents
- My return did not arrive
- My return arrived without content
- Help, I lost the parcel receipt
- Lost package found again: pay back damages?
- Return package lost abroad (China, USA, ...)
- Special case: cell phone stolen from package
If you send a return to e.g. OTTO, Zalando or Amazon, the package can be lost with bad luck. However, sometimes the worries are unfounded. Because it always takes a few days or even 1-2 weeks for the mail order company to confirm receipt of a return.
Always keep the delivery receipts for return parcels until the mail order company has refunded the purchase price.
Check the shipment tracking regularly to see when the return package was delivered to the retailer. Special feature at Hermes: In the case of returns, it is usually not possible to tell when and whether they were delivered. At DHL, returns are often booked as simplified company deliveries. This status is considered a successful delivery.
If you have not received a confirmation of receipt from the mail order company 1 week after delivery of the return, contact the dealer's customer service department. Ask if the return has arrived.
My return did not arrive
In order to cancel an order with a mail order company in due time, the date on which the return was sent counts and not the date of arrival at the dealer (see Section 355, Paragraph 1, Clause 5 of the German Civil Code).
The last sentence of the paragraph also states: "In the event of cancellation, the entrepreneur bears the risk of returning the goods." This means that as a private customer you have fulfilled your obligation by sending the return. If the package is lost en route, the retailer has to solve the problem.
This law only applies to purchases made by private individuals from companies (e.g. online shops). It does not apply to sales transactions between two private individuals. You can find a detailed description of the legal situation at www.it-recht-kanzlei.de.
▶ If you have used a pre-printed return label, the mail order company is the contractual partner of the parcel service. Because the dealer has paid the return postage. The dealer must take care of receiving compensation from the parcel service (e.g. DHL or Hermes). As a customer, you do not need to interfere in this matter. Nor can the mail order company hold you off forever arguing that the investigation is still ongoing. According to Paragraph 424 of the German Commercial Code, a parcel within Germany is considered lost if it has not been delivered 20 days after it was sent. Then persistently demand repayment of the purchase price from the mail order company at the latest.
▶ Have you paid the postage for the return package yourself, then you are a contractual partner of the parcel service and can claim compensation directly from the parcel service. The first step is to do an investigation. In addition, read our guide on how to commission an investigation.
Because inquiries with compensation payments can take 1-2 months, from the customer's point of view it is more advisable to pass the responsibility on to the dealer. If this is not legally possible, e.g. because it is a purchase transaction between two private individuals, the return sender must ask the parcel service to investigate and wait for the result.
If a retailer is stubborn and does not pay you back the purchase price due to a lost return, get legal support from a consumer advice center. Either on site or by telephone advice. See www.verbrauchzentrale.de/beratung.
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My return arrived without content
Some users reported to us about return packages that arrived at the online shop with no content. The online shop then naturally turns to the customer and does not want to credit the purchase price because no goods have been returned.
As the sender, you only have to prove that you have sent the package and not that the return has arrived in full at the retailer. You can prove that you have sent the return with the posting receipt or, alternatively, with online shipment tracking.
If goods are stolen from a return package on the way, the retailer bears this risk. The retailer can, in turn, hold the parcel service liable for the theft, but not the sender (if the sender is a private customer). This legal situation arises from Paragraph 355, Paragraph 3 of the German Civil Code: "In the event of cancellation, the entrepreneur bears the risk of returning the goods."
If the seller is unreasonable and refuses to repay the purchase price due to lost returns, send him this post from it-recht-kanzlei.de, where the legal situation is clearly explained.
In addition, read our guide to empty packages. There you will find tips on how to prove that a package was not sent empty but was stolen on the way.
► The weight measurement data are particularly important. All parcel services weigh parcels when they first arrive at a parcel center. This weighing data can help to prove that a package was not sent empty. If the parcel service does not want to give out the weight data, it may be helpful to report it to the police.
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Help, I lost the parcel receipt
After sending a return, the customer often thinks that the thing is done with it and the online shop will refund the purchase price shortly. In most cases it works. But some return packages get lost along the way. And then, as a customer, you have to prove that you actually sent the return. This proof is achieved with the delivery receipt (parcel receipt) that you receive when you hand in the parcel.
In the Paketda forum, customers told us that mail order companies only noticed the loss of a return after a month or two. Often the customer notices it faster if a reminder suddenly arrives for goods that have actually been returned.
If the delivery receipt is missing, the customer hardly has a chance to prove that the return package has been sent. If a pre-printed parcel label was used for the return, you could ask the customer service of the online shop whether a copy of this label may be saved. The parcel number is on the sticker, and the parcel number could be used to check the parcel status in the shipment tracking.
However, we are not aware of any customer who has already had success with this method. If you have lost the postage receipt, you will likely have to pay for the lost goods. Unless the online shop does not get in touch a long time after the return has been sent. It is common sense that nobody keeps post receipts for 2 months. It is unclear whether this line of argument can also be legally enforced. If necessary, ask a lawyer or consumer advice center.
► Ask a lawyer
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Lost package found again: pay back damages?
We regularly receive questions from affected customers from whom a parcel service is claiming compensation because a lost parcel has been found. The case was often months ago and customers no longer need the goods that they thought were lost.
We cannot and must not legally assess such cases. We never heard from the customers who asked, so that we have no empirical values.
► As a starting point for a legal assessment, it is advisable to take a look at Section 424 HGB: https://dejure.org/gesetze/HGB/424.html
Paragraphs 3 and 4 are important for a package that is lost and then found again. It says: After a lost item has been found, the claimant (the person who has received compensation) can request the parcel service to hand over the goods to him in return for reimbursement of the compensation.
If the customer does not require the parcel service to hand over the goods, "the carrier can freely dispose of the goods". In other words: the parcel service (carrier) could auction the recovered package, sell it, keep it or destroy it. The text of the law does not result in any obligation for the customer to have to remove the package that has been found. But you could do it voluntarily.
► The Paketda editorial team recommends: Confront the parcel service with the aforementioned legal text and wait for their reaction. It is quite possible that the parcel service knows other regulations or any general terms and conditions clauses that are detrimental to the customer.
We would be pleased if you could tell us your experience, provided that you were able to successfully prevent the reimbursement of damages for a package that was found again.
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Return package lost abroad (China, USA, ...)
Online shopping in China, the USA and other countries is very popular because of the low prices. Problems arise, however, when a foreign parcel is returned, lost in transit and the seller refuses to reimburse the purchase price.
A common reason for returning parcels abroad are Address errors such as missing house numbers or problems with umlauts in place names or recipient names. Even small deviations can lead to a return.
That is also problematic short storage period at customs. Parcels abroad are often deposited at regional customs offices and have to be picked up there by the recipient. If the recipient does not receive the customs collection letter on time (or not at all), the customs department will return the package to Deutsche Post DHL. The return abroad can then no longer be stopped.
In the Paketda forum we get reports of such cases almost every week. Neither the Deutsche Post DHL nor the German customs are responsible for lost returns. In addition, the tracking of returns often ends in the DHL parcel centers in Rodgau, Niederaula or Staufenberg. As a rule, it is not possible to determine what happened to a shipment afterwards.
In the event of a loss, some Chinese sellers require German customers to obtain a so-called "Parcel Loss Certificate" from Deutsche Post DHL. Some customers succeed in receiving such a letter, others do not. Ultimately, it doesn't matter because, in our experience, Deutsche Post DHL always refers to international shipments that the sender should complain to the postal company in the sender country. Experience has shown that other parcel services such as DPD and Hermes react in the same way.
▶ As a recipient, it is almost impossible to get compensation from the parcel service for a lost international parcel.
Ultimately, it depends on the goodwill of the foreign seller whether he will voluntarily reimburse the purchase price for a lost package. If the seller refuses, it is practically impossible to enforce consumer rights in non-EU countries. If you originally paid for the goods with PayPal or credit card, you can try to have the purchase price booked back.
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Special case: cell phone stolen from package
If a return package is lost with a cell phone / smartphone, it is a major financial loss. It is particularly critical if the device costs more than the maximum liability limit of the parcel service, e.g. more than 500 euros with DHL.
DHL could say that exceeding the 500 euro limit violated the terms and conditions and therefore completely refused to pay compensation.
This is a problem if you have not used a pre-printed return parcel label but have paid the return postage yourself. In this case, you as the customer are responsible for having adequate package insurance. You would have had to book a so-called higher insurance so that the full purchase price of the cell phone is insured.
One way out of this situation is maybeSection 435 of the German Commercial Code. It says that the exemptions from liability and limitations of liability do not apply if a parcel service employee acted "willfully or recklessly and in the knowledge that damage is likely to occur". If a package is stolen, it is deliberate action.
As a customer, you have to prove that the cell phone was not accidentally lost on the way, but deliberately. Check eBay and eBay classifieds to see if the cell phone is on sale there.
You should also report it to the police. It is best to give the IMEI device number (the seller may be able to give you this). The police may be able to locate the device if it is turned on. This would then likely prove that it was stolen. Maybe you can even locate the perpetrator.
Important: This is not legally binding information but only ideas on how to proceed. You can get legal advice e.g. from consumer advice centers (also by telephone) or from a lawyer or on online legal portals such as frag-einen-anwalt.de or advocado.de. More on this in our complaints guide.
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The above tips are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Further information can be found in the guide on correct returns.
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