Duties of couriers

I live in on acreage outside a small town. Over a period of years I have had problems with couriers several times. It may be the same courier but I am not sure, often no name is given.

The issue is that the couriers accept goods to be delivered clearly showing my address and they then refuse to deliver as I am too far out of the way. Typically they phone and offer a choice of returning the package to base or dropping it at a shop which may be 15-30 km away.

I have no problem with a courier deciding that they cannot service some areas or adding a surcharge for remote areas. Where I have the problem is that they ought to decide that BEFORE accepting the package not afterwards. I note that some (all?) couriers explicitly say they are not a common carrier, which I believe relieves them of some obligations.

So my first question is what are the obligations in law of a courier to deliver a package once they have taken custody of it? Can they legally decide after accepting custody not to deliver it or are they scamming the consignor (and me indirectly) by taking the money and then not providing the service? What law is relevant to this?

My second question is about the chain of delivery. It seems that couriers have various systems where they transfer packages between themselves, that is from collection to delivery there may be more than one company handling the package. Does this arrangement change the obligations of any of them in the chain?

Thirdly, is there any peak body that represents couriers that might have advice on these matters or on industry best practice?


Have you read the terms and conditions of the courier that was supposed to deliver the goods?

This may provide some indication of the obligations of the courier should a delivery address be deemed ‘remote’.

This link is to a range of those which are available online.

T&Cs are also regularly printed on the back of the despatch notice…or provided to the sender on despatch.

Here is an example of wording from one I selected at random…

'5.3 If the specified place of delivery is unattended or if the Courier is otherwise unable to effect delivery, the Courier has the option to deposit the goods at that place or to store the goods. If the Courier decides to store the goods the Customer must pay or indemnify the Courier for all costs and expenses incurred in or about such storage. Furthermore, the Courier has the discretion to re-deliver the goods to the Customer from the place of storage at the Customer’s expense.
5.4 If the Courier decides to deposit the goods in accordance with Clause 5.3, this is deemed to be delivery of the goods under this contract.’

One would however expect that if the courier agreed to deliver the package to the delivery address (say verbal confirmation on collection from the sender or when the courier service was engaged), then one would expect attempt to be made to deliver the parcel to the delivery address.


As @phb says, it will depend on the terms of the courier contract. So if @syncretic has paid for a courier and the job has been accepted, but then is not delivered, syncretic may be able to get a refund for the courier fees. It’s a service that has been paid for but not performed. It will be a bit tricky though as there are likely to be multiple parties in the purchase/delivery chain.

If syncretic has bought goods from a retailer and they have added a price for delivery, I suggest that our poster complain to the retailer. They will be paying the courier so if the job is not complete they ought to know.

Often, courier companies will charge an extra fee for a remote location delivery or pick up. For example, on the TNT website there is a lengthy list of Australian localities that will attract a surcharge.

The term “common carrier” has a special meaning which has been developed since medieval times. A common carrier holds out to the public that they are ready to carry any goods, at reasonable rates and without reservation. So it is not unusual for couriers to say that they are not common carriers - they are limiting their liability.


Regarding the incident that made me bring this up I have taken this up with the vendor as they employed the courier, they added the cost to the price to me of course. I am in the process of trying to get them to decide what their policy is on this. As I see it either they offer delivery as part of the purchase (in which case they should enforce their contract with couriers) or they do not insist on couriers doing their job in which case they cannot reasonably advertise that deliver is included with the purchase unless the exceptions are made explicit.

I brought it up now as this is not the first time I have had the problem. This is why I was asking about the law and not about the terms of any specific courier’s contract. Since I did not engage any of the couriers they have no contract with me and their conditions and whether they stick to them is not up to me to enforce. Among other things, it would help my argument with the vendor if I could point out how they are being ripped of by the courier, so that they take action to prevent this happening again.

I would not mind if couriers refused to deliver to me or if they charge a premium PROVIDED this was stated in advance so I could decide on my purchases knowing the total cost of the alternatives.

My feeling at the moment is that the couriers are ripping of the vendors but the vendors ignore it because it is too hard to deal with exceptions and too few customers complain. I will rely any results that I get.


I know this post is a while ago but hopefully it will help others out. I was a courier for about 10 years, firstly there are different say areas in a courier company, there is ad-hoc which is where drivers are all over the metro area waiting for jobs these are mainly 1 ton utes & maybe some vans but not very often as they would want to be utilised for the other area in the courier business, where they have set runs in which some may load up in the morning at the depot or they will meet in a public place where there could be up to 5 vans waiting for the truck from the depot to distribute the goods to each van, they normally have 4 or 5 runs per day which means they MUST be back at the pick up meeting point regardless of where they are or even if they haven’t distributed the first loadplace by a specific time to meet the truck again for the next drop off

Welcome to the community @Atmonas

Interesting to read your shared experience.
I’ve been on the user end for several decades. As you suggest, timing is everything. One missed connection adds a day to a delivery. Everyday retail including AP seems to have picked up during Covid.

Larger items can wait for a week in the nearest depot until one of the local sub carriers is prepared to give up quality and efficiency. 25-40km distant, carrier dependant.