Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Royal Mail - a complaint

The Royal Mail does not fare so well. Last year I sent a small gold chain, which had been in the family for many years, to South Africa, a bequest to a niece from my late mother. I was dubious of it ever arriving in South Africa as soon as I noted you had to state the contents on the package. I asked for it to be insured and was told this was included in the price of postage, approximately £5. However as the object was probably worth more I paid for more insurance. It was now insured for up to £100. A small amount for a sentimental piece of family history but probably reflected its face value on an open market.

It never arrived of course. A quick on-line check showed it had only taken a couple of days to leave the UK and thus vanish into the hands of some thief in the South African post office.

I made my insurance claim and was asked again how much the item missing was worth. I told them and wrote to them giving my estimate for its value, (£100) which was what I had estimated and had paid to have ensured. A long wait ensued. Three months later I contacted Royal Mail and was told that they have an international agreement with South Africa which allows each country to ask for information about missing items. The deadline for responding had passed. However I was informed that they would make another request for information about my missing (stolen!!!) item as this was also a part of 'the agreement'. Another three months passed.

I contacted them again. I was again informed that they had still received no reply from South Africa, which was hardly suprising and that my claim was being processed. Another three months passed.

I contacted them again and was told that they could not allow my claim as I had given them a written estimate of the value. Pardon? "Yes, if you give us a self valuation we've no way of knowing whether you are correct so we don't normally pay out". But, I pointed out, that there was no other way of valuing such items. "Sorry sir, we only accept receipts showing valuations". I struggled to explain that getting , or having a receipt for an item of 100 years of age was highly unlikely as the shop selling the item was not likely to have the original record or, still be in business. I was also told that they don't accept self valuations as these are always viewed with suspicion . In effect this means that if you post something in the UK and you insure it with Royal Mail then in the event it goes missing you will not get your money back unless you have your receipt of purchase. I told them I'm not aware of any other insurer that asks for proof of valuation on paper before paying out. After all if your house burns down your not asked for receipts of all the items burnt. I got nowhere. However they would look into it further. Another few months passed.

I contacted them again. In the end I did accept 'a good will payment of £36. Obviously running an insurance business is a highly profitable enterprise for the Royal Mail as you make it very easy for people to pay for insurance and almost impossible for people to make a claim. Oh, and never, ever both contact customers or reply to anyone trying to make a complaint,

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