When and who should sign the “proof of delivery” (POD) when receiving a package5 min read

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Most people know the strong feeling of anticipation when receiving a package they had been waiting to get their hands on for a long time. The courier driver knocks on their door, they impatiently sign the proof of delivery and then take the package in their home, where they check its content. This might sound as the standard process when receiving a parcel, however, an important step has been missed. Signing the proof of delivery should not be done light-heartedly, as its role is more important than you might imagine, especially upon receiving a damaged package.  

What is the proof of delivery? 

The proof of delivery is what the recipient signs when receiving a shipment in good order and condition. It can be in physical or electronic form and it is called “POD”. The POD usually contains the time and date of the delivery, the name of the recipient and his/her signature. It functions pretty much as a receipt, with the difference that its purpose is to prove that a delivery has been completed, rather than a purchase has been made.  

When to sign the POD? 

A lot of people, carried away by their anticipation, sign the POD before inspecting their package. This is a huge mistake. By signing it, the recipient confirms that the delivery has been completed successfully, without any problems. As we mentioned earlier, the POD does not only stand as a proof of delivery. It also stands as proof that the shipment was delivered in good condition. And that is what most people are unaware of. Why is this important? In case a parcel has been damaged or stolen, a claim might be rejected when the POD has been signed. The claim procedure for any damages basically starts with the POD, which should be signed with reservation in such cases. Learn more about the claims procedure in case of damage or loss.

Who should sign?  

The person signing the POD should obviously be the recipient that is indicated on the package. However, in case the indicated recipient cannot be physically present at the delivery location at the specified delivery time, he/she can appoint someone else to receive the parcel on his/her behalf. In such cases, the appointed person should be warned about the importance of checking the package before signing the POD. Many courier companies offer the possibility to sign online for the delivery of your parcel. You can also request that they leave it at your door. It is also important to know your country’s legislation on delivering and receiving parcels. In certain countries, UK being one of them, the appointed person is responsible for the condition of the package, if the recipient assigns someone else to receive the package. Learn more why parcels often get damaged.

It is important to be aware that not only should you be very careful when asking someone else to sign for your package, but also when someone asks you to sign on their behalf. That is because deliveries which have been signed for by a neighbor fall under a grey area when it comes to consumer rights. In case of a damaged shipment, it is hard to prove if the item was damaged during transit or when it was delivered to the appointed person.

Especially if you had designated your neighbor or another person to receive your parcel, the sender might argue that delivering the item to them is no different than delivering it directly to you. They might try to use this argument to deny you compensation. However, remember that you still have legal rights and should file a complaint! If you never gave permission to your neighbor to sign for you, then the process becomes a lot easier.

What to check for? 

It is very important that you pay close attention before signing any document from the courier service. Most importantly, always check if there are any damages to the package. Otherwise, it might be difficult to claim for damages. Also, look at the courier notification – is there a box already ticked saying that the package was not properly packed? Such details can actually be used later to deny you any claims. Maybe there is also no time to check the parcel or the courier driver denies you to do so. In this case, an alternative would be to sign and write “unchecked” next to your signature. 

What if the courier driver doesn’t allow me to open the package? 

In most cases, the courier driver allows the recipient to briefly inspect their parcel before signing the proof of delivery. There have been many instances though, where they have flatly denied such a request. There are several reasons for that. The courier driver might have not been well informed by the provider they work for. Maybe they have a limited time framework to deliver a huge amount of parcels. Also, they could be simply afraid that they might have to take the responsibility in case of any damages.

It is true that it is often hard to find a specific guideline in the couriers’ legal obligations concerning the act of inspecting the package before signing the POD. That is why there is a long list of forums on the Internet with people are sharing their experiences on that matter. Some courier services have also established their own rules, sometimes allowing the parcel to be opened only if it was indicated by the sender.  

Even when there are no clear obligations from the courier’s side to let you inspect the parcel, we strongly recommend you to insist on that matter, especially when there are obvious external damages to the package (e.g. the box is wet and soggy, has holes, etc). Does the courier driver responds that this would be against their company’s guidelines? In this case, we would recommend you to write “unchecked” next to your signature. Of course, this is a gray area. Writing down that you have not inspected the parcel offers no guarantee that your claims will be accepted. Furthermore, it is crucial to check the legal framework in your country concerning the obligations of the courier service providers.  

In case you are not a recipient but a shipper of a damaged or lost parcel, learn more on how to file a shipping insurance claim. To avoid any risks, you can send your package through Eurosender. Eurosender only collaborates with the most reliable courier service provider, meaning that your items will be in good hands.

Last modified: May 24, 2018

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