High inflation notwithstanding, Austrians' penchant for online shopping continues to flourish, with an estimated 8.4% surge in package deliveries projected for the year, rounding off approximately 35.5 million parcels. Such enthusiasm is palpable, particularly during the Christmas season's zenith, putting delivery services under immense strain. The Austrian Post exemplifies this, with a record of ferrying around 1.3 million packages on its peak days in December.
The Duality of Online Shopping: Satisfaction and Discontent
Despite a 38% drop in dispute resolution and receipt complaints related to postal services in 2022 compared to the previous year, as reported by the Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (Regulierungsbehörde RTR), delivery issues persist, according to consumers. A study by the Austrian E-Commerce Trust Mark, which surveyed 1,000 individuals, revealed general contentment with online order deliveries. However, over two-thirds of the respondents narrated occasional grievances such as non-genuine delivery attempts, delayed deliveries, damaged or wrong items, and non-functional tracking.
The Complexity of Parcel Delivery Contracts
The complexity stems from the dual contractual relationships involved in parcel delivery: the purchase agreement between the consumer and the online retailer, and the transport contract between the retailer and the delivery service. This often leaves the recipient bereft of direct contractual rights to lodge a complaint against the courier service.
Consumer Rights and Parcel Delivery: A Labyrinth of Legalities
The Consumer Protection Association has underscored the lack of recipients' ability to directly address issues as a recurring theme in complaints. The Post Market Act and EU Consumer Rights Directive add further layers of intricacy regarding parcel delivery to replacement recipients and the transfer of risk for loss or damage. The Consumer Protection Association counsels that even if a parcel is left with a neighbor, the risk of loss or damage does not transfer to the consumer. In such scenarios, the online shop bears the responsibility for redelivery. The Association also warns against authorizing parcel drop-off without the recipient's signature, as the risk of loss then falls on the consumer. Lastly, they advise that in cases where delivery proof is challenging, the online shop can demand a delivery details investigation from the courier service.