Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting International Mail Delivered: The Posts’ Obligations and the Mailer’s (Part II)

Tags: postal service, international mail, customs, Univeral Postal Union (UPU), United States Postal Service (USPS), undeliverable mail

You, the mailer, prepare your international mail pieces, adhering to all the legal requirements and providing all the correct documentation, as is your responsibility.  And, so, the mail goes to the postal service where it is accepted for delivery in other countries with the payment of the postage.  The postal service sorts it as necessary, puts it with the other pieces destined for the proper countries, and ships it on its way.

This meets most of the obligation of the postal service in the country where the mail originates.  There will be some others later in the process.  (That shipping to other countries is quite complicated and involves checks for security and for contraband.  But you and I, as honest mailers, need not worry much about that.)

In any case, your mail piece arrives in the destination country along with many other pieces of mail.  First, it is subject to customs inspection.  This is outside the purview of the postal system.  The customs service has the right to inspect any items for compliance with the import regulations of the country.  This can be wide-ranging.  But again, you have already checked that out, so there is no worry.  Hmmm.  Maybe there is cause for some concern right here.

If the item requires the payment of duty, it usually stays in a holding area until the payment is made.  Even in the rare cases where delivery may be attempted, items will not be handed over to the intended recipient until payment is made.  If you are fulfilling orders for merchandise internationally, this may cause abandoned goods, unhappy customers, or both.

Let’s assume customs clears the item and it goes to the postal service for delivery.  Language issues may cause delays.  But the local postal service has an obligation to attempt to deliver international mail items as they do domestic mail, forward the items if the addressee has changed address, and return them to the sender if undeliverable if they are in a class of mail that requires return.

A country may refuse to deliver mail if it is posted in a country other than where the mailer is located and that difference reduces the payment to the destination country’s postal service by the originating postal service.  (Mailer, beware!  If service provider’s postage quote is very low, ask questions!)

If you want or need the undeliverable pieces returned, make sure that the class of mail used requires that return.  Of course, the return address must be on the items and that return address should be in the country where the postage was paid.   The return of undeliverable mail can be slow.  It can take months, in fact. The return of these undeliverable items is one of the obligations of the originating postal service.  However, if the return address is not in the country where postage was paid, problems can occur.

If something goes missing, the mailer can institute an inquiry either through the postal service where postage was paid or through their service provider.  Obviously, a single letter with no special handling could not be traced.  For large mailings through a service, contact the service provider.  Other inquiries for "parcels or registered, insured or recorded delivery items must be accepted by designated postal operators posted in its own service or that of any other designated operator" if the inquiry is presented within six months plus one day from the day the items were posted, according to the UPU Acts.