We know how frustrating things can get when the package we have just sent away gets stuck somewhere along the way or is even delivered back to us. While there are many different causes for delayed deliveries or undeliverable shipments, the reason for head-scratching tracking statuses like »package stopped in transit« or »package returned to sender« can often be summed up in three words – shipping prohibited items. The list of these (find it here) is actually quite extensive and extends well beyond the most obvious examples such as drugs or explosives. If you are wondering how exactly such goods are found and what happens to them if discovered by couriers, stick with us.
Can a courier driver even collect a parcel including a forbidden item?
In general, courier drivers do not check whether a parcel they came to collect is suitable for standard shipping or not. Instead, they rely on the declaration provided by the customer during the booking process. Therefore, every sender is responsible for checking if the contents of their shipments align with the shipping laws and the policies of the logistics providers.
How can couriers discover prohibited items in a parcel?
There are several ways in which the courier services can find out that someone is shipping prohibited items. The following are the most common:
With the help of customs
Since the goods circulate more or less freely among EU-members, the parcels travelling by road within the EU are thus not likely to be checked by the customs. However, this does not mean that there is no control at all. The authorities still sporadically check a certain number of shipments, which means that there is no way of knowing whether a parcel will undergo a customs clearance or not.
Besides these random check-ups, customs procedures are also necessary for shipments travelling by air as well as those sent to or from the UK and Ireland. Naturally, packages sent between the EU and non-EU countries (Albania, Iceland, Macedonia Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland etc.) cannot avoid x-rays and manual check-ups either.
Inspection of suspicious parcels
In some cases, even the courier services themselves have the right to open a package and thoroughly inspect its contents. This normally happens in the following situations:
- The shipment is damaged or inappropriately packed. In most cases, restricted and not recommended items are discovered in shipments that show signs of damage and therefore require a closer check-up.
- Signs of leakage or smells raise suspicions. While stains on the package might be a sign of leakage, an unpleasant odour can indicate that one is dealing with a perishable item gone bad. Both cases present a justifiable cause for the depot workers to inspect the shipment.
- The shape of the packaging itself is suspicious. If the shape of the packaging reminds of a restricted or forbidden item, courier service workers are likely to inspect it. To avoid confusion when shipping items that look like forbidden goods, consider them packing wisely.
When a shipment is missing
If a package is missing, the courier service will require a complete and accurate description of its exterior as well and its contents to ease and expedite the search process. If they find the package, they might also open it to make sure it matches your description.
So, what if you place restricted or forbidden items inside a package?
So, what happens when forbidden items are discovered? Unfortunately, there is no uniform answer to this question as every courier service has its own rules and procedures. However, there are some scenarios that are most likely:
- The courier service removes the items. In some cases, the courier services simply take the prohibited items out of the package and continue with the delivery process. They might also ship these items back to the sender.
- The courier service confiscates the items. In this case, they will likely be destroyed.
- The parcel is returned to the sender. The whole parcel is delivered back to the sender’s address.
- The sender must book another service. When shipping items that are not suitable for standard delivery, the courier service can require the sender to arrange the transport with a different company that can safely carry such items.
- The sender is reported to the authorities. If the courier service discovers illegal items in the parcel, they will report the case to the police.
The shipping service can also charge the sender if the contents of their package damage other parcels during the transport.
How can I avoid shipping prohibited items?
If you are not completely sure if you can ship a particular item or not, first check the chosen courier’s list of prohibited items. Most leading logistics providers have such lists and the necessary instructions on their official pages. Alternatively, you can also ship your items with Eurosender and leave the hard questions to us. Our shipping professionals are well acquainted with the laws as well as the rules of shipping companies. They know exactly what can and cannot be shipped and will be most happy to advise you.
This post was written in cooperation with Eurosender’s customer support specialist, Turalp Ture.
Last modified: September 9, 2019