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Parcel Loss: Who is Liable? – 2024 Guide

It’s a major annoyance for online shoppers: they wait eagerly for their order, but the package disappears without a trace in transit. Perhaps, however, the shipment is left with the neighbor and suffers damage there. In worse cases, it was stolen off your porch.

If a look at the shipment tracking, shows that the status of the package has not changed, consumers naturally ask themselves who is actually liable for the lost package. The following article explains what their rights are.

Ordering from a commercial retailer

If goods are purchased from a commercial online retailer and the retailer ships the order, the risk of the package being damaged or lost in transit always lies with the seller. Only at the time when the goods are actually held in the hands of the buyer, the obligation of the entrepreneur, which arises from the respective purchase contract, is fulfilled. Thus, if the package is lost during transportation, the customer must receive the purchase price for the goods back from the merchant. However, the seller is not obliged to reship the goods.

The situation is similar if the parcel is left with the neighbor by the parcel carrier. As long as the package is not in the possession of the customer, the risk of loss still lies with the seller. If it does not arrive at its rightful owner, the purchase price must be refunded.

If the parcel is merely left by the deliverer, Section 854 of the German Civil Code determines whether the shipment thus becomes the property of the buyer. This is only the case if two conditions are met: Over the thing, the buyer must attain the actual power and want this also.

The good thing is that you can always track your shipment and to do so check out

Ownership can therefore only be assumed if the deliverer places the item in the buyer’s garage or home. Merely leaving the item in front of the front door or in the hallway is not sufficient for obtaining possession, as the buyer does not express a general will to possess in this case. In such a case, the seller must therefore also refund the purchase price.

Order with a private seller

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However, the case is significantly different if the goods are purchased from a private seller, for example via the auction platform eBay. The risk of shipment must then always be borne by the buyer as soon as the goods have been handed over by the seller to the respective transport company.

If the shipment is then lost in transit, the private seller does not have to refund the purchase price. Nevertheless, it is advisable for the buyer to contact the seller and ask him to assign his claims for compensation against the parcel delivery company to him. Once this has been done, the buyer can contact the service provider and claim compensation for the lost goods.

Incidentally, this also applies if the parcel, which was sent by a private seller, was delivered to the neighbor and damaged there. If the parcel service provider refers to a clause in its general terms and conditions that gives it the right to leave parcels with neighbors, this is not effective according to a 2011 ruling by the Cologne Higher Regional Court. Thus, the parcel service provider must also pay for the damage incurred in this case.

What you can do

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In any case, your first course of action should always be to contact the delivery company.

Most of the time the issue will be easily resolved after the company itself starts an investigation, they will determine what happened and if you’re eligible for a refund.

This process can take anywhere between a couple of days and a month, it depends on the type of delivery and the shipping company’s policy. Make sure you read the Terms of Service of the company or perhaps their FAQ page In order to inform yourself of these policies.

If the product failed to deliver or was lost in transit, the shipping company will very likely grant you a refund. If the product was delivered, they are more likely to deny you a refund as the fault lies with your local post office or you. In certain regions the post office must receive your signature as proof of delivery, in others, they simply drop off the package at your door. If you don’t remember signing anything, contact your post office. The package is likely stored at your region’s main post office and generally, you can pick it up within 30 days.

If however the package was delivered without a signature, as permitted by local laws and your choice of shipment, then the shipping company and post office are no longer liable.

The USA for example struggles with a lot of what they call “porch pirates”. People that scour neighborhoods for deliveries left at the front door, which they steal.

In this case, you should contact your local authorities to report theft.

Unfortunately, if you do not have a home security system, it’s almost impossible to prove your package was stolen. If both the delivery company and your post office have logged the delivery as successful, then the burden of proof lies with you. Installing a camera on your front door is an easy way to solve this issue. Video evidence, either yours or your neighbors, is currently the only way to legally fight back against thieves.

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Make sure you find the correct culprit by going through the correct legal steps before arming yourself with a lawyer in court. A legal dispute with a commercial retailer, shipping company, post office, or a thief can be costly and the odds will be stacked against you without ample proof.

As it stands it’s easier to prevent such incidents rather than act on them. Ask a local lawyer for advice on how you can protect yourself and your packages as well from parcel loss.

Thank you for reading our article, we hope the information provided was sufficient for you to find a solution.

About Peter Janos