Australian tech companies sending IT equipment around the country in recent years may be eligible for a cut of almost $3 million compensation from Australia Post, following an investigation by the competition watchdog.

Australia Post and its subsidiary StarTrack agreed to a court-enforceable undertaking with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for failing to accept compensation requests from some business customers and incorrectly telling others that they were ineligible for compensation for lost or damaged packages.

Australia Post has admitted that it “likely engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct” by failing to pay compensation for lost or damaged parcels to about 10,500 business contract customers and to fewer than 1,000 recipients of StarTrack deliveries that were lost or damaged.

This equates to total compensation of about $2.9 million.

Business contract customers are businesses that have a contract with Australia Post for the delivery of larger volumes of articles, sending at least 2,000 such items per year.

ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said Australia Post reported the breach itself in May 2023, and that it relates to a four-year period up until October 2022.

“The failure by Australia Post Group to provide business customers with the remedies they were entitled to is extremely concerning, but we acknowledge that Australia Post self-reported this conduct to the ACCC,” Carver said in a statement.

“We are pleased that Australia Post Group has undertaken to provide compensation for this error and to put systems in place to ensure similar errors are not made in the future.”

No compo for you

The compensation relates to Australia Post failing to accept some compensation requests from business contract customers for lost and damaged articles, and incorrectly advising some business customers that no compensation was payable to them.

Under consumer guarantee rights in Australian Consumer Law, consumers can request a remedy if a product is not of acceptable quality or a service is not performed with due care and skill, fit for purpose, or supplied for the purpose of a business.

There was previously an exemption in these rights for certain transport services for the purpose of a business.

In October 2018, this was amended with the effect that from then, consumer guarantee rights applied to the transport of goods to a recipient who is not carrying on a business in relation to the goods.

The breach relates to Australia Post failing to properly implement this amended exemption and not accepting compensation claims from businesses which had articles lost or damaged in transit.

“Business contract customers who sent goods to customers without a business purpose which were lost or damaged in transit with the Australia Post Group have been entitled, and continue to be entitled, to consumer guarantee rights,” Carver said.

Impacted business contract customers will be able to claim the cost of postage plus interest. Impacted receivers of StarTrack deliveries that were affected by the conduct will be able to claim an amount for the value of the goods lost or damaged, plus interest.

Many of these customers will automatically receive the compensation, and Australia Post will be directly contacting them over the coming week.

There will also be a claims portal on the Australia Post and StarTrack website detailing who is eligible for compensation and what actions they need to take.

Scammer warning

Those seeking a refund have been warned to be wary of scammers potentially using the announcement to trick impacted people into clicking on malicious links and handing over personal information.

“They may be using this media release about Australia Post refunds to convince you that it is real,” the competition watchdog said.

“Australia Post Group will not provide clickable links or phone numbers and will not ask for email or text message responses.

“If you receive a call from anyone offering to help you with a refund, hang up immediately. Never give personal information to anyone calling you out of the blue and never give access to your computer or bank account.”